In physics, the Rabi cycle (or Rabi flop) is the cyclic behaviour of a two-level quantum system in the presence of an oscillatory driving field. A great variety of physical processes belonging to the areas of quantum computing, condensed matter, atomic and molecular physics, and nuclear and particle physics can be conveniently studied in terms of two-level quantum mechanical systems, and exhibit Rabi flopping when coupled to an oscillatory driving field. The effect is important in quantum optics, magnetic resonance and quantum computing, and is named after Isidor Isaac Rabi.
A two-level system is one that has two possible energy levels. These two levels are a ground state with lower energy and an excited state with higher energy. If the energy levels are not degenerate (i.e. not having equal energies), the system can absorb a quantum of energy and transition from the ground state to the “excited” state. When an atom (or some other two-level system) is illuminated by a coherent beam of photons, it will cyclically absorb photons and re-emit them by stimulated emission. One such cycle is called a Rabi cycle, and the inverse of its duration is the Rabi frequency of the photon beam. The effect can be modeled using the Jaynes–Cummings model and the Bloch vector formalism.