Abstract

Collective effects in the atom–light interaction are of great importance for cold-atom-based quantum devices or fundamental studies on light transport in complex media. Here we discuss and compare three different approaches to light scattering by dilute cold atomic ensembles. The first approach is a coupled-dipole model, valid at low intensity, which includes cooperative effects, such as superradiance, and other coherent properties. The second one is a random-walk model, which includes classical multiple scattering and neglects coherence effects. The third approach is a crude approximation based only on the attenuation of the excitation beam inside the medium, the so-called shadow effect. We show that in the case of a low-density sample, the random-walk approach is an excellent approximation for steady-state light scattering and that the shadow effect surprisingly gives rather accurate results at least up to optical depths on the order of 15.

© 2019 Optical Society of America

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