Abstract:
We study the loss of spatial coherence in the extended wave function of fullerenes due to collisions with background gases. From the gradual suppression of quantum interference with increasing gas pressure we are able to support quantitatively both the predictions of decoherence theory and our picture of the interaction process. We thus explore the practical limits of matter wave interferometry at finite gas pressures and estimate the required experimental vacuum conditions for interferometry with even larger objects.

Abstract:
We provide a self-contained quantum description of the interference produced by macromolecules diffracted by a grating, with particular reference to fullerene interferometry experiments. We analyze the processes inducing loss of coherence consisting in beam preparation (collimation setup and thermal spread of the wavelengths of the macromolecules) and in environmental disturbances. The results show a good agreement with experimental data published by Zeilinger's group and highlight the analogy with optics. Our analysis gives some hints for planning future experiments.

Abstract:
This chapter reviews recent experiments on matter wave interferometry with large molecules. Starting from an elementary introduction to matter wave physics we discuss far-field diffraction and near-field interferometry with thermally excited many-body systems. We describe the constraints imposed by decoherence and dephasing effects, and present an outlook to the future challenges in macromolecule and cluster interferometry.

Abstract:
To investigate the possibility that intrinsic gravitational decoherence can be theoretically demonstrated within canonical quantum gravity, we develop a model of a self-gravitating interferometer. We search for evidence in the resulting interference pattern that would indicate coherence is fundamentally limited due to general relativistic effects. To eliminate the occurence of gravitational waves, we work in spherical symmetry, and construct the "beam" of the interferometer out of WKB states for an infinitesimally thin shell of matter. For internal consistency, we encode information about the beam optics within the dynamics of the shell itself, by arranging an ideal fluid on the surface of the shell with an equation of state that enforces beam-splitting and reflections. We then determine sufficient conditions for (interferometric) coherence to be fully present even after general relativistic corrections are introduced, test whether or not they can be satisfied, and remark on the implications of the results.

Abstract:
We analyze the coherence properties of polarized neutrons, after they have interacted with a magnetic field or a phase shifter undergoing different kinds of statistical fluctuations. We endeavor to probe the degree of disorder of the distribution of the phase shifts by means of the loss of quantum mechanical coherence of the neutron. We find that the notion of entropy of the shifts and that of decoherence of the neutron do not necessarily agree. In some cases the neutron wave function is more coherent, even though it has interacted with a more disordered medium.

Abstract:
A two-slit interference of a massive particle in the presence of environment induced decoherence is theoretically analyzed using a fully quantum mechanical calculation. The Markovian Master equation, derived from coupling the particle to a harmonic-oscillator heat bath, is used to obtain exact solutions which show the existence of an interference. Interestingly, decoherence does not affect the pattern, but only leads to a reduction in the fringe visibility.

Abstract:
The propagation of polarized photons in optical media can be effectively modeled by means of quantum dynamical semigroups. These generalized time evolutions consistently describe phenomena leading to loss of phase coherence and dissipation originating from the interaction with a large, external environment. High sensitive experiments in the laboratory can provide stringent bounds on the fundamental energy scale that characterizes these non-standard effects.

Abstract:
Stochastic backgrounds of gravitational waves are intrinsic fluctuations of spacetime which lead to an unavoidable decoherence mechanism. This mechanism manifests itself as a degradation of the contrast of quantum interferences. It defines an ultimate decoherence border for matter-wave interferometry using larger and larger molecules. We give a quantitative characterization of this border in terms of figures involving the gravitational environment as well as the sensitivity of the interferometer to gravitational waves. The known level of gravitational noise determines the maximal size of the molecular probe for which interferences may remain observable. We discuss the relevance of this result in the context of ongoing progresses towards more and more sensitive matter-wave interferometry.

Abstract:
A general semiclassical approach to quantum systems with system-bath interactions is developed. We study system decoherence in detail using a coherent state semiclassical wavepacket method which avoids singularity issues arising in the usual Green's function approach. We discuss the general conditions under which it is approximately correct to discuss quantum decoherence in terms of a ``dephasing'' picture and we derive semiclassical expressions for the phase and phase distribution. Remarkably, an effective system wavefunction emerges whose norm measures the decoherence and is equivalent to a density matrix formulation.

Abstract:
We study two different decoherence modes for entangled qubits by considering a Liouville - von Neumann master equation. Mode A is determined by projection operators onto the eigenstates of the Hamiltonian and mode B by projectors onto rotated states. We present solutions for general and for Bell diagonal states and calculate for the later the mixedness and the amount of entanglement given by the concurrence. We propose a realization of the decoherence modes within neutron interferometry by applying fluctuating magnetic fields. An experimental test of the Kraus operator decomposition describing the evolution of the system for each mode is presented.