Demonstration of weak measurement based on atomic spontaneous emission

Itay Shomroni*, Orel Bechler, Serge Rosenblum, Barak Dayan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


We demonstrate a new type of weak measurement based on the dynamics of spontaneous emission. The pointer in our scheme is given by the Lorentzian distribution characterizing atomic exponential decay via emission of a single photon. We thus introduce weak measurement, so far demonstrated nearly exclusively with laser beams and Gaussian statistics, into the quantum regime of single emitters and single quanta, enabling the exploitation of a wide class of sources that are abundant in nature. We describe a complete analogy between our scheme and weak measurement with conventional Gaussian pointers. Instead of a shift in the mean of a Gaussian distribution, an imaginary weak value is exhibited in our scheme by a significantly slower-than-natural exponential distribution of emitted photons at the postselected polarization, leading to a large shift in their mean arrival time. The dynamics of spontaneous emission offer a broader view of the measurement process than is usually considered within the weak measurement formalism. Our scheme opens the path for the use of atoms and atomlike systems as sensitive probes in weak measurements, one example being optical magnetometry.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number023604
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - 12 Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes


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