Ultrastrong coupling between light and matter
Review article, 2019

Light-matter coupling with strength comparable to the bare transition frequencies of the system is called ultrastrong. This Review surveys how experiments have realized ultrastrong coupling in the past decade, the new phenomena predicted in this regime and the applications it enables. AbstractUltrastrong coupling between light and matter has, in the past decade, transitioned from a theoretical idea to an experimental reality. It is a new regime of quantum light-matter interaction, which goes beyond weak and strong coupling to make the coupling strength comparable to the transition frequencies in the system. The achievement of weak and strong coupling has led to increased control of quantum systems and to applications such as lasers, quantum sensing, and quantum information processing. Here we review the theory of quantum systems with ultrastrong coupling, discussing entangled ground states with virtual excitations, new avenues for nonlinear optics, and connections to several important physical models. We also overview the multitude of experimental setups, including superconducting circuits, organic molecules, semiconductor polaritons, and optomechanical systems, that have now achieved ultrastrong coupling. We conclude by discussing the many potential applications that these achievements enable in physics and chemistry. Key pointsUltrastrong coupling (USC) can be achieved by coupling many dipoles to light, or by using degrees of freedom whose coupling is not bounded by the smallness of the fine-structure constant.The highest light-matter coupling strengths have been measured in experiments with Landau polaritons in semiconductor systems and in setups with superconducting quantum circuits.With USC, standard approximations break down, allowing processes that do not conserve the number of excitations in the system, leading to a ground state that contains virtual excitations.Potential applications of USC include fast and protected quantum information processing, nonlinear optics, modified chemical reactions and the enhancement of various quantum phenomena.Now that USC has been reached in several systems, it is time to experimentally explore the new phenomena predicted for this regime and to find their useful applications.


Anton Frisk Kockum

Chalmers, Microtechnology and Nanoscience (MC2), Applied Quantum Physics

Adam Miranowicz

Adam Mickiewicz University in PoznaƄ


Simone De Liberato

University of Southampton

Salvatore Savasta


University of Messina

F. Nori

University of Michigan



2522-5820 (eISSN)

Vol. 1 1 19-40

Subject Categories

Atom and Molecular Physics and Optics

Other Physics Topics

Condensed Matter Physics



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8/3/2020 8