Northwestern University

Thu 2:00 PM

Special Seminar, Tim Kovachy: Macroscopic Scale Atom Interferometry: Techniques and Fundamental Physics Applications

When: Thursday, February 22, 2018
2:00 PM - 3:00 PM  

Where: Technological Institute, F160, 2145 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Tina Hoff   847.491.3645

Group: AMO: The Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics Seminar

Category: Lectures & Meetings


Title: Macroscopic Scale Atom Interferometry: Techniques and Fundamental Physics Applications

Speaker: Tim Kovachy, Stanford University


Abstract: Light-pulse atom interferometry—which uses optical pulses to split, recombine, and interfere quantum mechanical atomic matter waves—is a sensitive method for measuring inertial forces, making it a valuable tool for a broad set of fundamental physics tests. The sensitivity of an atom interferometer scales with its enclosed spacetime area, which is proportional to the product of the maximum spatial separation reached between the two interferometer paths and the interferometer duration. Motivated by this scaling, we have realized atom interferometers that cover macroscopic scales in space (tens of centimeters) and in time (multiple seconds).

I will discuss the experimental techniques that enable macroscopic scale interferometers, and I will explain how we use these interferometers for fundamental tests of gravity and of quantum mechanics. I will describe how these interferometers test wave-particle duality in a new regime in which massive objects are delocalized over the distance and time scales of everyday life, and I will present the first observation of the effect of spacetime curvature across the wavefunction of a single quantum system. This observation has been described as the first true manifestation of gravity in a quantum system, making it an important step in studying the interplay between gravity and quantum mechanics. Additionally, I will show recent results from a dual species interferometer for a dramatically improved atomic test of the equivalence principle. To conclude, I will discuss future directions for fundamental physics tests with macroscopic scale interferometers.

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