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A universal matter-wave interferometer with optical ionization gratings in the time domain

Nature Physics volume 9, pages 144148 (2013) | Download Citation

Abstract

Matter-wave interferometry with atoms1 and molecules2 has attracted a rapidly growing level of interest over the past two decades, both in demonstrations of fundamental quantum phenomena and in quantum-enhanced precision measurements. Such experiments exploit the non-classical superposition of two or more position and momentum states that are coherently split and rejoined to interfere3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11. Here, we present the experimental realization of a universal near-field interferometer built from three short-pulse single-photon ionization gratings12,13. We observe quantum interference of fast molecular clusters, with a composite de Broglie wavelength as small as 275 fm. Optical ionization gratings are largely independent of the specific internal level structure and are therefore universally applicable to different kinds of nanoparticle, ranging from atoms to clusters, molecules and nanospheres. The interferometer is sensitive to fringe shifts as small as a few nanometres and yet robust against velocity-dependent phase shifts, because the gratings exist only for nanoseconds and form an interferometer in the time domain.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge support by the Austrian science funds (FWF-Z149-N16 Wittgenstein and DK CoQuS W1210-2) as well as infrastructure funds by the Austrian ministry of science and research BMWF (IS725001). We thank U. Even and O. Cheshnovsky for emphasizing the benefits of organic molecules with the Even–Lavie valve and K. Hornberger for collaborations on the modelling of the OTIMA interferometer. We thank B. von Issendorff for discussions on cluster sources.

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  1. Faculty of Physics, University of Vienna, VCQ, Boltzmanngasse 5, A-1090 Vienna, Austria

    • Philipp Haslinger
    • , Nadine Dörre
    • , Philipp Geyer
    • , Jonas Rodewald
    • , Stefan Nimmrichter
    •  & Markus Arndt

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Contributions

P.H., N.D., P.G. and J.R. built the interferometer and performed the measurements. P.H. contributed the initial experimental layout and the time-domain perspective of the experiment. P.G. developed the customized software and data acquisition system in feedback with the team. Data analysis was done by N.D., J.R. and P.H. S.N. contributed the theoretical description. M.A. initiated and supervised the experiment. P.H., N.D., J.R., S.N. and M.A. wrote the paper with input by all co-authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Markus Arndt.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys2542

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