Dipolar Quantum Magnets

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy


This project is located in the field of ultracold atoms, which based on the Nobel Prizes 1997 and 2001 is rapidly growing worldwide. It aims to establish UK leadership in dipolar magnetism, a novel area in this field connecting to several disciplines including spin-ice physics, a hot topic in condensed matter physics, macroscopic entanglement, of major interest to quantum computation and precision magnetic sensors with cross-disciplinary applications ranging from fundamental physics to geophysics, mineral exploration and climate change.

In principle dipolar systems represent 19th century physics, when dipolar interactions were discussed in vain to explain magnetism. In the 20th century quantum physics with the Pauli principle and the Heisenberg model of magnetism came to the rescue - pushing dipolar interactions to the status of a small perturbation. However, it is exactly the quantum regime, which is currently triggering strong interest in dipolar systems. Dipolar interactions promise to provide long-range interactions in ultracold gas systems, opening unprecedented possibilities to study many-body effects, create magnetic monopole excitations or perform quantum gate operations.

This project proposes to explore a new pathway in the highly competitive area of dipolar quantum gases by focusing on magnetic interactions, effectively establishing a new research area. The goal is to understand dipolar quantum phases, dipolar dynamics like the Einstein-de Haas effect and to explore dipolar interactions to create a system of large quantum spins with ultimate sensitivity to magnetic fields. It will directly benefit on the order of 20 researchers in the UK and 200 worldwide and has established collaborations linking to diverse fields in order to maximise impact.

Planned Impact

This project aims to establish UK leadership in dipolar magnetism, a novel area in the Nobel Prize winning field of ultracold atoms. Beating the current state of the art by over a factor of 1000 will impact the international research standing of the UK and boost its fundamental research capacity.

The prospects for economic and societal impact are long-term, but affect multi-billion £ markets:
1. Precision magnetic field sensing technology revolutionizing risk-free bio-imaging and medical imaging applications, e.g. making brain activity visible or checking the neural pathways of the human body. This will also considerably improve the quality of life for the patients.
2. Robust precision magnetic field sensors for field use ranging from underground/subsea mapping and mineral exploration to remote sensing (potentially satellite) input to climate and hydrology models steering agriculture on a world level. This has significant societal impact in terms of food and energy security as well as global warming.
3. The most speculative impact would be the realisation of quantum computation based on quantum logic devices using multipolar interactions and/or macroscopic entangled states. It cannot be expected that a single project can master this grand challenge alone, but the present project could add several significant building blocks to it.

In the short term the project has significant potential for knowledge generation ranging from the foundations of our model of the laws of nature and quantum computation to long-standing problems related to magnetic solid state devices.

This project will involve the wider public using the opportunities of web 2.0 and will implement a dedicated scheme to open novel pathways from fundamental research to applications:

A1 - Disseminate: Identify and inform potential beneficiaries
A2 - Listen: Invite stakeholders to provide input into the direction of the project
A3 - Link: 3-month placements in industry for all PhD students on the project
A4 - Follow-up: Initiate collaborative research and spin-off activities
Description We have developed an active magnetic field compensation system in collaboration with Ecole Normale Superieur in Paris. This is currently being written up for publication.
We have also developed magnetic sensors based on optical interrogation of atomic vapour cells.We have also achieved a Bose-Einstein condensate in an optical dipole trap on the way to develop Spinor BECs and package the entire system in a multi-layer mu-Metal shield.
Exploitation Route Our findings will enable other researchers or companies needing to operate at low or well defined magnetic field.
They have triggered interest in using atomic magnetic sensors in clinical applications ad we are currently preparing a joint interdisciplinary grant application also including industry partners to take this further.
Sectors Education,Healthcare

Description This is fundamental research, thuis findings have mainly been used to inform other researchers.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Education