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Based on the Lindblad master equation approach we obtain a detailed microscopic model of photons in a dye-filled cavity, which features condensation of light. To this end we generalise a recent non-equilibrium approach of Kirton and Keeling such that the dye-mediated contribution to the photon-photon interaction in the light condensate is accessible due to an interplay of coherent and dissipative dynamics. We describe the steady-state properties of the system by analysing the resulting equations of motion of both photonic and matter degrees of freedom. In particular, we discuss the existence of two limiting cases for steady states: photon Bose-Einstein condensate and laser-like. In the former case, we determine the corresponding dimensionless photon-photon interaction strength by relying on realistic experimental data and find a good agreement with previous theoretical estimates. Furthermore, we investigate how the dimensionless interaction strength depends on the respective system parameters.

Although for photon Bose–Einstein condensates the main mechanism of the observed photon–photon interaction has already been identified to be of a thermo-optic nature, its influence on the condensate dynamics is still unknown. Here a mean-field description of this effect is derived, which consists of an open-dissipative Schrödinger equation for the condensate wave function coupled to a diffusion equation for the temperature of the dye solution. With this system at hand, the lowest-lying collective modes of a harmonically trapped photon Bose–Einstein condensate are calculated analytically via a linear stability analysis. As a result, the collective frequencies and, thus, the strength of the effective photon–photon interaction turn out to strongly depend on the thermal diffusion in the cavity mirrors. In particular, a breakdown of the Kohn theorem is predicted, i.e. the frequency of the centre-of-mass oscillation is reduced due to the thermo-optic photon–photon interaction.