Atom Interferometry for an Inertial Navigation System
My experiment aims to measure the acceleration of a cold thermal gas of rubidium atoms, using the interference pattern that arises when an atom evolves as a coherent superposition of two states. We use a series of laser pulses to stimulate a Raman transition that split up, reflect and recombine the two wavepackets through the momentum exchanged in a two-photon process. Atom interferometers are extremely sensitive to inertial forces and are much less prone to drift than conventional mechanical accelerometers. This accelerometer will form part of a navigation system, in conjunction with other quantum systems that are extremely sensitive to rotations and time.
So far, I have mainly been working on a compact magneto-optical trap which forms the first step towards a source of cold atoms. Aside from that, I have helped build transportable units for both a reference and a repump laser, which will also be used by other rubidium experiments in the centre for cold matter. Currently, I am designing a cage system to contain the optics necessary for large, retro-reflected Raman beams that is suitable for use in an ultra-high vacuum.