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Imaging systems developed for investigating ultra-cold atoms

A team from the University of Colorado's physics department, led by Professor Dana Anderson, has demonstrated a high-resolution projection and imaging system for ultra-cold atoms.

Research into ultra-cold matter is establishing a high level of understanding of the underlying physics for applications, such as inertial guidance systems, atomic clocks and quantum computing.

‘Our research is aimed at developing "atomtronic" devices, atomic analogues to semiconductor-based electronics, such as transistors and diodes, which can be used to fabricate atomic circuits with real commercial applications,’ said Dr Evan Salim. ‘All of them will rely on quantum mechanical tunnelling of atoms through potential barriers and we must be able to detect and manipulate the atoms at micron or sub-micron scales. Our system greatly simplifies the process and enables a more flexible and robust device.’

The imaging system is built from commercially available components. The silicon and glass atom chip at the heart of the system is metallised to enable magnetic trapping while the glass regions enable holographically-generated light patterns to optically slice the magnetic trap into separate regions. Up to four Bose-condensates have been generated simultaneously and fluorescent images captured on an Andor iXon EMCCD camera.

‘We chose the Andor iXon for several reasons: the experiments relied on fluorescence imaging of small samples of atoms, typically 10-20 thousand atoms, and we needed a camera with exceptional low light performance. As well as meeting that performance requirement, the iXon EMCCD camera was already being used by colleagues doing similar work. Finally, we had previous experience of Andor's cameras in the past and valued their combination of performance and reliability. It was a good choice, as we used it for low-light, bright-light, and rapid imaging applications.’

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