Miniature devices for trapping ions (electrically charged atoms) are common components in atomic clocks and quantum computing research.
Now, a novel ion trap geometry demonstrated at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) could usher in a new generation of applications because the device holds promise as a stylus for sensing very small forces or as an interface for efficient transfer of individual light particles for quantum communications.
The “stylus trap,” built by physicists from NIST and Germany’s University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, is described in Nature Physics.* It uses fairly standard techniques to cool ions with laser light and trap them with electromagnetic fields. But whereas in conventional ion traps, the ions are surrounded by the trapping electrodes, in the stylus trap a single ion is captured above the tip of a set of steel electrodes, forming a point-like probe. The open trap geometry allows unprecedented access to the trapped ion, and the electrodes can be maneuvered close to surfaces. The researchers theoretically modeled and then built several different versions of the trap and characterized them using single magnesium ions.
The new trap, if used to measure forces with the ion as a stylus probe tip, is about one million times more sensitive than an atomic force microscope using a cantilever as a sensor because the ion is lighter in mass and reacts more strongly to small forces. In addition, ions offer combined sensitivity to both electric and magnetic fields or other force fields, producing a more versatile sensor than, for example, neutral atoms or quantum dots. By either scanning the ion trap near a surface or moving a sample near the trap, a user could map out the near-surface electric and magnetic fields. The ion is extremely sensitive to electric fields oscillating at between approximately 100 kilohertz and 10 megahertz.
The new trap also might be placed in the focus of a parabolic (cone-shaped) mirror so that light beams could be focused directly on the ion. Under the right conditions, single photons, particles of light, could be transferred between an optical fiber and the single ion with close to 95 percent efficiency. Efficient atom-fiber interfaces are crucial in long-distance quantum key cryptography (QKD), the best method known for protecting the privacy of a communications channel. In quantum computing research, fluorescent light emitted by ions could be collected with similar efficiency as a read-out signal. The new trap also could be used to compare heating rates of different electrode surfaces, a rapid approach to investigating a long-standing problem in the design of ion-trap quantum computers.
Research on the stylus trap was supported by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity.
* R. Maiwald, D. Leibfried, J. Britton, J.C. Bergquist, G. Leuchs, and D.J. Wineland. 2009. Stylus ion trap for enhanced access and sensing. Nature Physics, published online June 28.
Laura Ost | Newswise Science News
APEX takes a glimpse into the heart of darkness
25.05.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie
First chip-scale broadband optical system that can sense molecules in the mid-IR
24.05.2018 | Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences