Letter abstract

Nature Photonics 1, 649 - 652 (2007)
Published online: 1 November 2007 | doi:10.1038/nphoton.2007.201

Subject Category: Imaging and sensing

Subpicotesla atomic magnetometry with a microfabricated vapour cell

Vishal Shah1,2, Svenja Knappe1, Peter D. D. Schwindt3 & John Kitching1

Highly sensitive magnetometers capable of measuring magnetic fields below 1 pT have an impact on areas as diverse as geophysical surveying1, the detection of unexploded ordinance2, space science3, nuclear magnetic resonance4, 5, health care6 and perimeter and remote monitoring. Recently, it has been shown that laboratory optical magnetometers7, 8, based on the precession of the spins of alkali atoms in the vapour phase, could achieve sensitivities in the femtotesla range, comparable to9, 10, 11, 12, or even exceeding13, those of superconducting quantum interference devices6. We demonstrate here an atomic magnetometer based on a millimetre-scale microfabricated alkali vapour cell with sensitivity below 70 fT Hz-1/2. Additionally, we use a simplified optical configuration that requires only a single low-power laser. This result suggests that millimetre-scale, low-power femtotesla magnetometers are feasible, and we support this proposition with a simple sensitivity scaling analysis. Such an instrument would greatly expand the range of applications in which atomic magnetometers could be used.

  1. National Institute of Standards and Technology, 325 Broadway, Boulder, Colorado 80305, USA
  2. Department of Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA
  3. Sandia National Laboratories, MS 1082, PO Box 5800, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185, USA

Correspondence to: John Kitching1 e-mail: kitching@boulder.nist.gov


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