Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

23.01.2017

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This principle applies to stones, feathers, and atoms alike. Under conditions of microgravity, very long and precise measure-ments can be carried out to determine whether different types of atoms actually "fall equally fast" in the gravitational field of the Earth – or if we have to revise our understanding of the universe.


MAIUS laser system

used to successfully create a Bose-Einstein condensate for the first time in space. It is about as big as a shoe box with a mass of 27 kg. FBH’s laser modules are integrated on the bottom side of the heat sink, the top side houses modules for further processing of the light to be transferred to the main experiment.

(© Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)


MOPA laser module for MAIUS

Hybrid-integrated master-oscillator power-amplifier (MOPA) laser module for rubidium precision spectroscopy in space developed by the Ferdinand-Braun-Institut – three of these MOPA modules along with two redundant modules are integrated into the laser system.

(© FBH/schurian.com)

As part of a national consortium, Ferdinand-Braun-Institut, Leibniz-Institut fuer Hoechstfre-quenztechnik (FBH) and Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin (HU) now made a historical step towards testing the Equivalence Principle in the microcosm of quantum objects. In the MAIUS mission launched on January 23, 2017 a cloud of nano-Kelvin cold rubidium atoms has been generated in space for the first time ever. This cloud was cooled down with laser light and radio frequency electrical fields so that the atoms finally formed a single quantum object, a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC).

More than 20 years after the groundbreaking results of the Nobel laureates Cornell, Ketterle, and Wieman on ultra-cold atoms, preliminary evaluation of the sounding rocket mission data indicates that such experiments can also be carried out under the harsh conditions of space operation – back in 1995, living room-sized setups in a special laboratory environment were required. Today’s quantum optical sensor is as small as a freezer and remains fully opera-tional even after experiencing huge mechanical and thermal stress caused by the rocket launch. This groundbreaking mission is a pathfinder for applications of quantum sensors in space.

In the future, scientists expect to use quantum sensor technology to cope with one of the biggest challenges of modern physics: the unification of gravitation with the other funda-mental interactions (strong, weak, and electro-magnetic force) in a single consistent theory. At the same time, these experiments are drivers of innovation for a broad range of applica-tions, from inertial (non-GPS referenced) navigation to space-borne geodesy used to deter-mine the Earth’s shape.

Comprehensive know-how in laser modules designed for space applications

For this mission, the FBH has developed hybrid micro-integrated semiconductor laser mod-ules that are suitable for application in space. These laser modules, together with optical and spectroscopic units provided by third partners, have been integrated and qualified by HU to provide the laser subsystem of the scientific payload. The results of this mission coordinated by Leibniz Universitaet Hannover do not only prove that quantum optical experiments with ultra-cold atoms are possible in space, but also give FBH and HU the opportunity to test their miniaturized laser system technology under real operating conditions.

The results will also be used to prepare future missions which are already scheduled for launch. MAIUS, however, is not the first sounding rocket test for both institutions’ laser technology in space; the technolo-gy has already been successfully tested in April 2015 and January 2016 on board of two sounding rockets within the FOKUS and KALEXUS experiments.

MAIUS: matter-wave interferometry under microgravity conditions

The MAIUS mission is supported by the German Space Agency (DLR) with funds provided by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy and tests all key technologies of a space-borne quantum optical sensor on a sounding rocket: vacuum chamber, laser system, electronics, and software. MAIUS constitutes a historical milestone for future missions in space that will take advantage of the full potential of quantum technology.

For the first time world-wide, a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) based on rubidium atoms has been created on board of a sounding rocket and has been used to investigate atom interferometry in space. Quantum optical sensors based on BECs enable high-precision measurements of accelerations and rotations using laser pulses which provide a reference for precise determi-nation of the positions of the atomic cloud.

The compact and robust diode laser system for laser cooling and atom interferometry with ultra-cold rubidium atoms has been developed under the leadership of the Optical Metrology Group at HU. This system is required for the operation of the MAIUS experiment and con-sists of four diode laser modules that have been developed by FBH as hybrid-integrated master-oscillator power-amplifier laser modules.

The master laser is a monolithic distributed feedback (DFB) laser which is frequency-stabilized to the frequency of an optical transition in rubidium and generates spectrally pure and highly stable (~ 1 MHz linewidth) optical radiation with low output power at 780 nm wavelength.

The three other laser modules feature a ta-pered amplifier chip with a ridge waveguide input section. These tapered amplifier chips boost the optical output power of a DFB laser to beyond 1 W without any loss of spectral stability. Two additional redundancy modules were integrated. Free space acousto-optical modulators and optical components are used to generate the laser pulses according to the experimental sequence. The laser light pulses are finally transferred to the experimental chamber by optical fibers.

Furthermore, a laser technology demonstrator designed for future missions has been inte-grated, consisting of two micro-integrated semiconductor Extended Cavity Diode Laser (ECDL) modules developed by FBH. These modules are specifically required for future atom interferometry experiments that pose more stringent requirements on the spectral stability of the lasers.


Contact
Ferdinand-Braun-Institut Leibniz-Institut fuer Hoechstfrequenztechnik

Petra Immerz / Dr. Andreas Wicht
Phone +49.30.6392-2626 / -3958
Email petra.immerz@fbh-berlin.de / andreas.wicht@fbh-berlin.de
Web www.fbh-berlin.de

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin AG Optische Metrologie

Prof. Achim Peters, PhD / Dr. Markus Krutzik
Phone +49.30.2093-4905 / -4814
Email achim.peters@physik.hu-berlin.de / markus.krutzik@physik.hu-berlin.de
Web www.physik.hu-berlin.de/en/qom

About the Joint Lab Laser Metrology

The Ferdinand-Braun-Institut and the Optical Metrology Group of the Mathematics and Natural Sci-ences Faculty of the Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin work closely together within the framework of the Joint Lab Laser Metrology to develop narrow-linewidth laser modules and laser systems for precision optical spectroscopy, specifically in the field and in space The cooperation brings together the exper-tise of semiconductor laser experts and quantum opticians so that the laser modules can be designed to meet the specific requirements of quantum optical experiments in harsh environments.

Petra Immerz / Dr. Andreas Wicht | Ferdinand-Braun-Institut Leibniz-Institut für Höchstfrequenztechnik

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht NASA's James Webb Space Telescope completes final cryogenic testing
21.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Previous evidence of water on mars now identified as grainflows
21.11.2017 | US Geological Survey

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Previous evidence of water on mars now identified as grainflows

21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope completes final cryogenic testing

21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New catalyst controls activation of a carbon-hydrogen bond

21.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>