Our conventional theories of the quantum interactions between light and atomic media tend to treat the atoms as a smooth macroscopic medium, ignoring the possibility that the dynamics might depend strongly on microscopic configurations and disorder. Within classical optics, however, it is well-known that the details of spatial configurations of scatterers — and the associated multiple scattering and interference of light — can give rise to important new phenomena and control, ranging from Anderson localization to photonic crystals and phased array antennas. It would thus be interesting to develop a theory for multiple scattering in the quantum domain. Within this context, we discuss our recent efforts in advancing such a theory, and some of the important consequences for quantum atom-light interfaces. These include the possibility to realize polynomially or exponentially better error scalings as a function of system resources for applications such as quantum memories of light and photon-photon gates, and novel many-body phenomena driven by the granularity of the atoms, such as many-body localization of light and critical slow-down dynamics in optical lattice clocks.
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QuCoLiMaTalks are the weekly seminar of the collaborative research center TRR 306 QuCoLiMa (Quantum Cooperativity of Light and Matter). The talks are given by (external) experts, whose research falls within the scope of QuCoLiMa.