A new concept has been developed which has the potential to aid new instruments in the investigation of fundamental scientific topics such as gravitational waves and dark matter.
The concept is described in an article written by British researchers at Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing at the University of Birmingham and published in Communications physics, and a related patent application filed by the University of Birmingham Enterprise.
He offers a new method of using optical cavities to improve atomic interferometers – highly sensitive devices that use light and atoms to make ultra-precise measurements.
Although difficult to implement itself, the concept presents a method for overcoming the significant technological challenges involved in the search for atomic interferometers operating at extreme momentum transfer – a technique that would allow placing atoms in a quantum superposition over great distances.
This is essential to enable the sensitivities required for these devices to study dark matter and gravitational wave signals. The exploration of dark matter and the detection of gravitational waves from the very beginning of the Universe are essential to the development of our collective knowledge of fundamental physics.
The new article, written by Dr Rustin Nourshargh, Dr Samuel Lellouch and colleagues at the School of Physics and Astronomy, describes how the synchronization of the input pulses, to achieve a spatially resolved circulating pulse in the optical cavity , can facilitate a large transfer of momentum without the need for drastic improvements in available laser power.
The study of dark matter and gravitational waves will not only facilitate a better understanding of the history of the Universe, but will also spark new ideas for improving the future sensitivity of atomic interferometers. It will also be relevant for further exploiting atomic interferometry in practical applications, such as providing new navigation tools by enabling increased resilience against loss of GPS signals.
Dr Rustin Nourshargh, a former doctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham and now a scientist at Oxford Ionics, said: “This optical cavity scheme offers a way to meet the immense laser power requirements of future atom-based gravitational wave detectors.”
University of Birmingham researcher Dr Samuel Lellouch said: “By overcoming some of today’s most severe technological barriers, this original scheme has real potential to enable disruptive sensitivity levels in large-scale atomic interferometers.”
The concept described in the article relates to a patent application filed by the University of Birmingham Enterprise. A second publication, expected in 2022, will focus on the content of the patent.