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The Thermal State

This field state is the equilibrium state for a field coupled to a reservoir at temperature . This state is commonly discussed in statistical and thermal physics courses because it is used to derive the Planck radiation law. The distribution function which describes a thermal state's statistics is similar to the Maxwell--Boltzmann distribution

 

is the Kronecker delta; thus, the only non--zero elements of the density matrix are along the diagonal.[14] The properties of the Fock and thermal states are quite similar because neither has off--diagonal terms. The principle difference between these two states is the photon number and its variance. The average photon number of a thermal state is a well known result which is often termed the Planck distribution function

 

and is derived in most statistical physics texts. The variance of a thermal state is not equal to zero, unlike the Fock state. This quantity is not commonly derived. In order to find the , one must know two expectation values: <N> and . The former is eq:q15. The latter is easily uncovered with eq:q14 and eq:q16b

 

It would be helpful if eq:q16 could be rewritten without a sum. Let u be defined as a dummy variable which equals . Making this substitution into eq:q16

and observe that

 

Although eq:q17 may seem to complicate finding , it actually simplifies eq:q16 significantly. Since the second derivative is a linear operator and u is not involved in the sum, the second derivative may be pulled outside the sum

Notice that and since u is greater than zero. This series is geometric and will converge to the value ; Ergo

The variance in the photon number can now be found

Besides this average and variance of the photon number, a thermal state is very much like a Fock state; however, these photon number properties are quite unique and interesting---especially when contrasted with the remaining two field states. The thermal state's properties are summarized in the following table



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Next: Minimum Uncertainty States Up: Radiation Sources Previous: The Fock State



Andy Antonelli
Wed May 17 14:34:24 EDT 1995