Detection and dynamics of ultra-cold atoms in optical lattices

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Mathematics


When atoms are cooled down to very low temperatures their thermal motion almost completely stops. The development of methods to trap and cool atoms be means of laser light and magnetic fields has provided tools to reach the lowest known temperatures in the Universe. These are within one billionth of a degree of absolute zero. At very cold temperatures the wave functions of the atoms start overlapping and they become indistinguishable. The bosonic atoms undergo the Bose-Einstein condensation, representing a new form of matter, predicted by Bose and Einstein almost a century ago. The Bose-Einstein condensates form a coherent source of atoms analogous to optical lasers; the resulting atom lasers are as different from ordinary atomic beams as optical lasers are from light bulbs. When the Bose-Einstein condensates are placed in periodic potential arrays formed by lasers, known as optical lattices, they behave like electrons in crystal lattices. However, unlike in crystal lattices, in optical lattices there are no lattice imperfections and the lattice height and the periodicity can be easily engineered. In optical lattices the atoms can behave like electrons in superconductors and could potentially be, e.g., the building block of a next generation quantum computer. The expected research outcomes are the means to observe, manipulate and control cold atoms by light, to further the basic understanding of quantum atomic gases and to influence the experimental progress with trapped atoms. The potential applications are in precision measurements, such as in the development of improved time measurements using atom clocks in satellite navigation.
Description We have analysed quantum dynamics of atoms and the effect of this dynamics on quantum technologies of sensing. Moreover we have proposed diagnostic tools for thermometry of ultracold atoms based on optical imaging.

We have analysed non-equilibrium dynamics of solitons in ultracold atomic gases when quantum fluctuations start to influence the dynamics. Ultracold atoms could be used as quantum interferometers and we have shown how strong correlations can be achieved in the experimental programme of developing quantum-enhanced sensing at Heidelberg.
Exploitation Route Imaging techniques for the diagnostics of quantum states in many-atom systems, development of quantum technologies in sensing.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Energy

Description They have influenced in the analysis and the development of experiments in these areas, e.g., at Heidelberg and Rice.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Impact Types Cultural

Description Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship
Amount £35,700 (GBP)
Funding ID RFG/2010/0190 
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2010 
End 09/2011
Description Foot 
Organisation University of Oxford
Department Department of Physics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaboration with the experimental group of Prof Chris Foot on the development of imaging methods in atomic systems.
Collaborator Contribution Collaboration work
Impact Publication: Physical Review Letters 103, 170404 (2009)
Start Year 2008
Description Heidelbeg 
Organisation Heidelberg University
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Theoretical analysis of experimental findings
Collaborator Contribution Valuable experimental data and research time of team members
Impact Two publications PHYSICAL REVIEW A 84, 011609(R) (2011) New Journal of Physics 15 (2013) 063035
Start Year 2009