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Enhanced metrology at the critical point of a many-body Rydberg atomic system


Interacting many-body systems display enhanced sensitivity close to critical transition points due to diverging quantum fluctuations. This criticality-based enhancement has been suggested as a potential resource for applications in precision metrology. Here we demonstrate many-body critical enhanced metrology for the sensing of external microwave electric fields in a non-equilibrium Rydberg atomic gas. We show that small variations in external driving lead to a large variation in the population of Rydberg states around criticality and to a notable change in the optical transmission signal. For continuous optical transmission at the critical point, we quantify the enhanced sensitivity extracting the Fisher information, which shows a three orders of magnitude increase due to many-body effects compared with single-particle systems. These results demonstrate that critical properties of many-body systems are promising resources for sensing and metrology applications.

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Fig. 1: Principle of single-body (top) (many-body (bottom)) Rydberg metrology.
Fig. 2: Optical transmission spectra with and without phase transition.
Fig. 3: Transmission spectra and associated FI.
Fig. 4: Change in transmission spectra by application of MW fields.
Fig. 5: Transmission under different amplitudes of MW field.
Fig. 6: Theoretical simulations of interacting two-level atoms.

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Data availability

The data that support this study are available via GitHub56 at Source data are provided with this paper.


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D.-S.D. thanks the discussions with J. Ye (JILA). Z.-K.L. appreciates the instructive discussions with T.-Y. Xie. D.-S.D. acknowledges funding from the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2017YFA0304800), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. U20A20218), the Major Science and Technology Projects in Anhui Province (grant no. 202203a13010001) and the Youth Innovation Promotion Association of the Chinese Academy of Sciences under grant no. 2018490. B.-S.S. acknowledges funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 11934013), the Innovation Program for Quantum Science and Technology (2021ZD0301100) and Anhui Initiative in Quantum Information Technologies (AHY020200). C.-S.A. acknowledges funding from the EPSRC through grant agreements EP/M014398/1 (‘Rydberg Soft Matter’), EP/R002061/1 (‘Atom-based Quantum Photonics’), EP/L023024/1 (‘Cooperative Quantum Optics in Dense Thermal Vapours’), EP/P012000/1 (‘Solid State Superatoms’), EP/R035482/1 (‘Optical Clock Arrays for Quantum Metrology’) and EP/S015973/1 (‘Microwave and Terahertz Field Sensing and Imaging using Rydberg Atoms’); the Danish National Research Foundation through the Center of Excellence for Complex Quantum Systems (grant agreement no. DNRF156); DSTL; and Durham University.

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Authors and Affiliations



D.-S.D. conceived the idea and implemented the physical experiments with Z.-K.L. Z.-K.L., D.-S.D. and K.M. employed the FI. D.-S.D., Z.-K.L. and K.M. derived the equations, plotted the figures and wrote the manuscript. All the authors contributed to the discussions regarding the results and analysis contained in the manuscript. D.-S.D., B.-S.S., G.-C.G. and C.-S.A. sponsor this project.

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Correspondence to Dong-Sheng Ding, Bao-Sen Shi, Klaus Mølmer or Charles S. Adams.

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Nature Physics thanks Shannon Whitlock and Abolfazl Bayat for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Ding, DS., Liu, ZK., Shi, BS. et al. Enhanced metrology at the critical point of a many-body Rydberg atomic system. Nat. Phys. 18, 1447–1452 (2022).

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