The features of resonance fluorescence and absorption of resonance laser radiation in atomic vapors in a superthin cell with thickness L of the order of a wavelength lambda are investigated theoretically. Taking into account the Fabry-Perot interference effect, it is found that the dependence of the fluorescence and absorption spectra on the ratio L/lambda is substantially different. Coherent spectral narrowing - the Dicke effect - when L=(2n+1)lambda/2 and broadening of the spectral line when L = n lambda (n is a whole number) are observed in the absorption spectra. This effect is absent in the spector of resonance fluorescence in extended media. It is also shown that the processes of saturation and optical pumping significantly alter the spectral line shape as the laser intensity increases; in particular, additional sub-Doppler dips appear at the frequency of the atomic transitions. Calculated curves are given for the D2 lines of ^85Rb atoms. © 2004 Optical Society of America

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