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A surface-patterned chip as a strong source of ultracold atoms for quantum technologies


Laser-cooled atoms are central to modern precision measurements1,2,3,4,5,6. They are also increasingly important as an enabling technology for experimental cavity quantum electrodynamics7,8, quantum information processing9,10,11 and matter–wave interferometry12. Although significant progress has been made in miniaturizing atomic metrological devices13,14, these are limited in accuracy by their use of hot atomic ensembles and buffer gases. Advances have also been made in producing portable apparatus that benefits from the advantages of atoms in the microkelvin regime15,16. However, simplifying atomic cooling and loading using microfabrication technology has proved difficult17,18. In this Letter we address this problem, realizing an atom chip that enables the integration of laser cooling and trapping into a compact apparatus. Our source delivers ten thousand times more atoms than previous magneto-optical traps with microfabricated optics and, for the first time, can reach sub-Doppler temperatures. Moreover, the same chip design offers a simple way to form stable optical lattices. These features, combined with simplicity of fabrication and ease of operation, make these new traps a key advance in the development of cold-atom technology for high-accuracy, portable measurement devices.

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Figure 1: Concept of the grating chip MOT.
Figure 2: Grating chips.
Figure 3: Variation of atom number with laser detuning and intensity.
Figure 4: Variation of peak atom number N with trapping volume V.
Figure 5: Temperature measurements on chip B.


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The authors acknowledge support from EPSRC, a Knowledge Transfer account for C.N. and a support fund for J.C. and also the ESA (through ESTEC project TEC-MME/2009/66), CEC FP7 (through project 247687; AQUTE), the Wellcome Trust (089245/Z/09/Z), NPL's strategic research programme and the UK National Measurement Office. P.G. is supported by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and E.H. by the Royal Society. Chip A was fabricated by Mir Enterprises. The authors thank P. Edwards for assistance with the SEM insets in Fig. 2a,b. All other SEM images in Fig. 2 are courtesy of Kelvin Nanotechnology, who fabricated chips B–D at the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre. The authors also thank J.P. Griffith and G.A.C. Jones for assistance with GaAs electron-beam lithography.

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C.N., M.V., P.G., E.R. and A.A. constructed and maintained the apparatus. C.N., J.C. and A.A. collected the data, which was analysed by J.C. and A.A. Chip A was designed by J.C. and E.H. Chips B–D were designed by E.R. and A.A., with fabrication directed by P.S., A.S. and C.I. The manuscript was written by J.C., E.H. and A.A., with comments from all authors.

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Correspondence to E. A. Hinds or A. S. Arnold.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Nshii, C., Vangeleyn, M., Cotter, J. et al. A surface-patterned chip as a strong source of ultracold atoms for quantum technologies. Nature Nanotech 8, 321–324 (2013).

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