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Microwave electrometry with Rydberg atoms in a vapour cell using bright atomic resonances


Atom-based standards for length and time as well as other physical quantities such as magnetic fields show clear advantages by enabling stable and uniform measurements. Here we demonstrate a new method for measuring microwave (MW) electric fields based on quantum interference in a rubidium atom. Using a bright resonance prepared within an electromagnetically induced transparency window we could achieve a sensitivity of 30 μV cm−1 Hz−1/2 and demonstrate detection of MW electric fields as small as 8 μV cm−1 with a modest set-up. The sensitivity is limited, at present, by the stability of our lasers and can be significantly improved in the future. Our method can serve as a new atom-based traceable standard for MW electrometry, with its reproducibility, accuracy and stability promising advances towards levels comparable with those attained in magnetometry at present.

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Figure 1: Level diagram and experimental set-up.
Figure 2: Three-level EIT and splitting from the MW electric fields.
Figure 3: Enhanced transmission of the four-level EIT signal due to the MW electric field.
Figure 4: Four-level EIT transmission signal as a function of MW electric field amplitude.


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This work was supported by the DARPA Quasar programme through a grant through ARO (60181-PH-DRP) and the NSF (PHY-1104424).

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J.P.S. and T.P. conceived the idea. J.P.S. led the project and wrote the paper. J.A.S., A.S. and H.K. carried out the experiments and reduced the data. A.S. and J.A.S. wrote the simulation programs. R.L. contributed useful ideas to the analysis of the experiment. All authors contributed extensively to the work.

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Correspondence to James P. Shaffer.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Sedlacek, J., Schwettmann, A., Kübler, H. et al. Microwave electrometry with Rydberg atoms in a vapour cell using bright atomic resonances. Nature Phys 8, 819–824 (2012).

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