Designing materials with specific properties has been a long-time goal of the physics community. Optical photons have recently emerged as a promising candidate for such metamaterials due to their fast dynamics and available manipulation toolkit. In conjunction with carefully engineered optical resonators, it is possible to precisely control the properties of individual photons through the resonator Hamiltonian. The only missing ingredient to photonic materials is strong photon-photon interactions. This thesis describes the characterization of cavity Rydberg polaritons and the emergence of strong interactions in such a system. Electromagnetically induced transparency (EIT) is used to create quasiparticles that inherit the properties of both photons and Rydberg atoms: fast dynamics and trapping from the photons and long-range dipole-dipole interactions from the Rydberg atoms. The emergent polaritonic properties are characterized and controlled through the dark-state rotation angle and agree very well with theoretical predictions. We then expand upon this understanding of polaritons by putting them inside a zerodimensional quantum dot. Confining the polaritons in such an object allows for strong interparticle interactions to manifest. We observe these interactions through the temporal auto-correlation intensity function g2(t) and verify the dimensionality of the quantum dot itself by measure the polariton Rabi oscillations. With the experimental demonstration of strong photonic interactions, a complete understanding of Rydberg atoms and polaritons is needed to allow for better control of the system. To this effect, the properties of Rydberg atoms are analytically and numerically understood and the full formalism needed to describe resonator Rydberg polaritons is developed, along with their interactions and various sources of decoherence. Furthermore, a renormalized effective field theory for single mode cavities is developed and tested against full numerical models, paving the way for the simulation of the physical phenomena of manybody states in multi-mode cavities. Strongly interacting cavity polaritons can be utilized in quantum gate and repeater protocols for quantum information processing. Furthermore, combining the experimental and theoretical work here with non-planar resonators presents a clear path to non-trivial topological synthetic materials and strongly correlated quantum states.




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