The interaction between the electromagnetic field inside a cavity and natural or artificial atoms has played a crucial role in developing our understanding of light-matter interaction,and is central to various quantum technologies. Recently, new regimes beyond the weak and strong light-matter coupling have been explored in several settings. These regimes, where the interaction strength is comparable (ultrastrong) or even higher (deep-strong) than the transition frequencies in the system, can give rise to new physical effects and applications. At the same time, they challenge our understanding of cavity QED. When the interaction strength is so high, fundamental issues like the proper definition of subsystems and of their quantum measurements, the structure of light-matter ground states, or the analysis of time-dependent interactions are subject to ambiguities leading to even qualitatively distinct predictions. The resolution of these ambiguities is also important for understanding and designing next-generation quantum devices that will exploit the ultrastrong coupling regime. Here we discuss and provide solutions to these issues.

Spontaneous parametric down-conversion is a well-known process in quantum nonlinear optics in which a photon incident on a nonlinear crystal spontaneously splits into two photons. Herewe propose an analogous physical process where one excited atom directly transfers its excitation to a pair of spatially-separated atoms with probability approaching one. The interaction is mediated by the exchange of virtual rather than real photons. This nonlinear atomic process is coherent and reversible, so the pair of excited atoms can transfer the excitation back to the first one: the atomic analogue of sum-frequency generation of light. The parameters used to investigate this process correspond to experimentally-demonstrated values in ultrastrong circuit quantum electrodynamics. This approach can be extended to realize other nonlinear inter-atomic processes, such as four-atom mixing, and is an attractive architecture for the realization of quantum devices on a chip. We show that four-qubit mixing can efficiently implement quantum repetition codes and, thus, can be used for error-correction codes.

We explore photon coincidence counting statistics in the ultrastrong-coupling
regime where the atom-cavity coupling rate becomes comparable to the cavity
resonance frequency. In thisregime usual normal order correlation functions
fail to describe the output photon statistics. By expressing the electric-field
operator in the cavity-emitter dressed basis we are able to propose correlation
functions that are valid for arbitrary degrees of light-matter interaction. Our
results show that the standard photon blockade scenario is significantly
modified for ultrastrong coupling. We observe parametric processes even for
two-level emitters and temporal oscillations of intensity correlation functions
at a frequency given by the ultrastrong photon emitter coupling. These effects
can be traced back to the presence of two-photon cascade decays induced by
counter-rotating interaction terms.