Air Force

Atom chip

Multi-dimensional control of a trapped atom


Atom chips are highly specialized integrated circuits designed to trap atoms. They have primarily been used as research tools. Currently, these chips, which are no larger than a postage stamp, are still housed in large vacuum chambers surrounded by a vast array of optics, lasers, detectors, and control electronics. Atom chips hold promise for commercial application in areas of precision gyroscopes, accelerometers, magnetometers, gravimeters, interferometers, and other quantum sensors. Applications outside of the lab depend on not just the ability to trap an atom but the ability to control it in a confined space.  Further complicating this, commercial applications will require system miniaturization.

To address the above, Air Force researchers have developed a novel atom chip which allows for the control of the potential in two directions.  The chip is comprised of two primary hardware components – a multitude of wires configured to control a potential in a first direction via a magnetic field and a waveguide configured perpendicular to the wires to control the potential in a second direction. The wires creating the magnetic field are spaced a predetermined distance apart so that by adjusting the currents within, the magnitude and direction of the potential can be tuned. Adjustments are driven by a polynomial model, which calculates the potential and changes the current supply.

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