We carry out a theoretical investigation on the collective dynamics of an ensemble of correlated atoms, subject to both vacuum fluctuations of spacetime and stochastic gravitational waves. A general approach is taken with the derivation of a quantum master equation capable of describing arbitrary confined nonrelativistic matter systems in an open quantum gravitational environment. It enables us to relate the spectral function for gravitational waves and the distribution function for quantum gravitational fluctuations and to indeed introduce a new spectral function for the zero-point fluctuations of spacetime. The formulation is applied to two-level identical bosonic atoms in an off-resonant high-Q cavity that effectively inhibits undesirable electromagnetic delays, leading to a gravitational transition mechanism through certain quadrupole moment operators. The overall relaxation rate before reaching equilibrium is found to generally scale collectively with the number N of atoms. However, we are also able to identify certain states of which the decay and excitation rates with stochastic gravitational waves and vacuum spacetime fluctuations amplify more significantly with a factor of N2. Using such favorable states as a means of measuring both conventional stochastic gravitational waves and novel zero-point spacetime fluctuations, we determine the theoretical lower bounds for the respective spectral functions. Finally, we discuss the implications of our findings on future observations of gravitational waves of a wider spectral window than currently accessible. Especially, the possible sensing of the zero-point fluctuations of spacetime could provide an opportunity to generate initial evidence and further guidance of quantum gravity.
Bibliographical note© 2017 American Physical Society
- gravitational waves
- open quantum systems
- quantum gravity