The preparation of an optically dense ensemble of three-level systems in dark states of the interaction with coherent radiation is discussed. It is shown that methods involving spontaneous emissions of photons such as Raman optical pumping fail to work beyond a critical density due to multiple scattering and trapping of these photons and the associated decay of the dark state(s). In optically thick media coherent-state preparation is only possible by entirely coherent means such as stimulated Raman adiabatic passage (STIRAP). It is shown that STIRAP is the underlying physical mechanism for electromagnetically induced transparency (EIT).
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