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6 September 2019 Time of flight paradox for photons in a dispersive medium
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Abstract
It is usually assumed that the energy dependent velocity of a photon moving in a dispersive medium is given by the group velocity at the frequency corresponding to the energy of the photon. This assumption corresponds to the notion that the velocity of a massive particle is determined by its momentum. However, a direct verification of this assumption for a single photon is impossible, since the velocity can only be obtained by measuring the position at two different times, and time-resolved measurements cannot also resolve photon energies. In previous work, I have shown how this limitation can be circumvented for position and momentum, demonstrating that quantum particles do not obey newton's first law in free space. Here, I apply a similar strategy to construct a quantum state in which a non-vanishing percentage of the photons travel a distance x in time t even though the probability of finding any photons with a group velocity of v = x/t is close to zero. Specifically, the suppression of frequencies with group velocities in the vicinity of v = x/t is achieved by destructive interference, while the probabilities of detecting the photons in the initial time window or in the final time window are simultaneously enhanced by constructive interferences between the mutually overlapping wavefunctions. Based on the statistical evidence obtained from separate measurements of single photon arrival times and frequencies, it is then possible to show that the group velocity does not represent the actual velocity at which individual photons propagate through the dispersive medium.
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Holger F. Hofmann "Time of flight paradox for photons in a dispersive medium", Proc. SPIE 11134, Quantum Communications and Quantum Imaging XVII, 111340H (6 September 2019); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2527217
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