Damping the zero-point energy of a harmonic oscillator
The physics of quantum electromagnetism in an absorbing medium is that of a field of damped harmonic oscillators. Yet until recently the damped harmonic oscillator was not treated with the same kind of formalism used to describe quantum electrodynamics in a arbitrary medium. Here we use the techniques of macroscopic QED, based on the Huttner--Barnett reservoir, to describe the quantum mechanics of a damped oscillator. We calculate the thermal and zero-point energy of the oscillator for a range of damping values from zero to infinity. While both the thermal and zero-point energies decrease with damping, the energy stored in the oscillator at fixed temperature increases with damping, an effect that may be experimentally observable. As the results follow from canonical quantization, the uncertainty principle is valid for all damping levels.
This version: arXiv:1304.0977v2 [quant-ph]. Available from ArXiv.org via the link in this record.