Surface plasmon polaritons are charge density waves of electrons in a metal, which
are coupled to an electromagnetic field at a metal-dielectric interface. The electro-
magnetic field associated with surface plasmons is confined, resulting in increased
field intensities near the interface. Optical emitters placed near a metal film interact strongly with the surface plasmon modes present, not only modifying the radiation rates, but also the radiation profile. These emitters may be used to store and process information, and understanding their behaviour in the presence of a lossy metal film is important in determining the advantages and limitations of using surface plasmons. In this thesis, we wish to understand how we can optically control atoms
by exploring two physical phenomena: first, the influence of surface plasmons on
collective effects in an ensemble of emitters. Secondly, the single photon excitation of an emitter near a metal film.
In the first case, we analyze the collective radiative behaviour of multiple classical
emitters near a metal film that radiatively couple to the far-field through surface
plasmon modes. We demonstrate that the contributions of dipolar image charges
within the metal film significantly affect the cooperative emission of nearby sources,
generating sub- and super-radiant emission that can be controlled with a suitably
detuned external driving field. In the second case, we determine the excitation probability of an atom near a
metal film by a single photon pulse that is time reversed. Using a quantum electro-
dynamic description of absorbing dielectrics, we show that non-radiative decay will limit the excitation probability to about half of the maximum that could be achieved in the absence of losses.