The electromagnetic near field, the main vector of interactions between sub-wavelength particles and nanostructures, shows dramatically enhanced fluctuations compared to free space (blackbody radiation), both at the level of vacuum and thermal fluctuations. We review recent characterizations of the near field's coherence properties. Particular emphasis is put on atoms and sub-wavelength particles that provide sensitive probes of the field. We discuss loss processes induced by magnetic near field fluctuations and the decoherence of confined atomic Bose-Einstein condensates. Full-text article is not available.

© 2004 Optical Society of America