Custom Optical Trapping of Ion Coulomb Crystals

Date: This event took place on July 31, 2018

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At temperatures near absolute zero, clouds of ions can crystallize when held in ion traps. Such “Coulomb crystals” have allowed physicists to explore the frontiers of physics in a variety of fields, from the cores of white dwarf stars to architectures for quantum computing. However, ions in conventional traps, which use electric and magnetic fields to hold the ions in place, are subject to a continuous swirling motion driven by the trapping fields. This disturbance masks intriguing quantum effects that are predicted to arise in Coulomb crystals. Recently, our group trapped a Coulomb crystal of six ions inside a laser beam, overcoming this fundamental limitation.

In this webcast, we show that the ions remain crystallized in the optical trap, aligned like pearls on a string even in the absence of cooling. In addition, we observe the collective motion of the ions on their lattice sites in a simple crystal. These sound waves are also a characteristic signature of conventional solid-state crystals.

Our findings pave the way for studies of quantum dynamics in Coulomb crystals, such as the transition from linear strings to two-dimensional zigzag structures or the quantum superposition of such structures across the phase transition.

During this webcast you will learn:

  • How to understand the trapping of neutral and charged atoms: similarities and differences between different trapping techniques
  • How to directly observe the dynamics within Coulomb Crystals using “dark-ions” as markers
  • How to exploit optically trapped ions in the future to investigate quantum-phase transitions, illustrated via accessible examples

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  • Prof Tobias Schaetz, University of Freiburg

    Prof Tobias Schaetz, University of Freiburg

    After heading a junior research group at the Max-Planck-Institut for Quantum Optics in Garching, Prof. Schaetz joined the University of Freiburg in 2011, currently as director of the Institute of Physics. He is eager to explore, under which conditions intriguing effects of quantum mechanics survive while affected by a “natural” environment.

  • Dr. Marcin Barszczewski, Andor

    Dr. Marcin Barszczewski, Andor

    Dr. Barszczewski is a research applications scientist and training specialist at Andor Technology. He has 15 years’ expertise in a wide range of imaging applications for CCD, EMCCD, and CMOS cameras as well as diverse microscopy and image-data visualization systems. He obtained his Ph.D. in neuroscience from the Max-Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry and the University of Goettingen, Germany in the lab of Reinhard Jahn.

  • Dr Jayshan Carpen, Nature Research

    Moderator: Dr Jayshan Carpen, Nature Research

    Jayshan is a Senior Publishing Manager for Nature Research Group and oversees the custom multimedia unit. Previously he ran science events at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. He received his PhD from the University of Surrey, UK in Neurogenetics. His doctoral thesis focused on identifying polymorphisms associated with diurnal preference and circadian sleep disorders.