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Atomic beams shoot straighter through cascade silicon board

  Atomic beams shoot shallower through cascade silicon staples
Atoms, here in blue, protrude from parallel barrels of an atomic beam collimator. Lasers, here in pink, can manipulate the exciting atoms for desired effects. Credit: Georgia Tech / Ella Maru studios work for rent

To a non-physicist, an "atomic beam collimator" may sound like a phaser shoot mysterious particles. It may not be the worst metaphor of introducing a technology that scientists now have miniaturized, making it more likely that they will ever land in handheld devices.

Today, atomic beam collimators are mostly found in physics labs where they project atoms into a beam that produces exotic quantum phenomena and which have properties that can be useful in precision technology. By shrinking collimators from the size of a small device to fit a fingertip, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology want technology available to engineers who advance devices such as atomic clocks or accelerometers, a component found in smartphones.

"A typical device that you can do with this is a next-generation gyroscope for a precision navigation system that is independent of GPS and can be used when you are outside the satellite area of ​​a remote region or traveling in space," says Chandra Raman. a senior lecturer in Georgia Tech's physics school and a co-researcher for the study.

The research was funded by the Navy Research Office. The researchers published their results in the journal Nature Communications on April 23, 201


Here's what a collimator is, part of the quantum potential in atomic beams and how the miniature collimator format can help atomic beams form new generations of technology.

Pocket atom shotguns

"Collimated atomic beams have been around for decades," Raman said. "Currently, collimators must be large to be precise".

The atomic ray begins in a box full of atoms, often rubidium, heated to a steam so that the atom sings chaotic. A tube drops into the box and random atoms with the right paths project into the tube as pellets entering a shotgun tube.

  Atomic beams project straight through cascade silicon staples
Collimator at the end of a pair of forceps. The small holes lined up in a row are the entries to the channels in the collimator through which the atoms project. Credit: Georgia Tech / Christopher Moore

Like pellets leaving a shotgun, the atoms leave the tube end shot rather straight but also with a random spray of atomic shot flying at angled angles. In a nuclear beam, the syringe produces signal beam and the improved collimator on a chip eliminates most of a more accurate, almost perfectly parallel beam of atoms.

The beam is much more focused and pure than rays come from existing collimators. The researchers would also like to have their collimator to enable experimental physicists to create more complex quantum states.

Exhaustive inertia mask

But more immediately, the collimator sets up new-born mechanics that can be adapted for practical use. The improved beams are streams of indiscriminate inertia, since atoms, unlike a laser beam, made of massless photons, have mass and hence momentum and inertia. This makes their rays potentially ideal reference points in jet-controlled gyroscopes that help track movements and changes in place.

Current gyroscopes in GPS-free navigation devices are accurate in the short term but not in the long term, which means recalibrating or ever changing so often, and making them less practical, say on the moon or on Mars.

"Conventional chip scales based on MEMS (microelectromechanical system) technology suffer from drift over time from various strains," said Co principle investigator Farrokh Ayazi, Ken Byer's Professor of Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "To eliminate that operation, you need an absolutely stable mechanism. This atomic beam creates that kind of reference on a chip."

  Atomic beams shoot straight through cascade silicone crushers
The collimator next to a penny. The small slit on the side contains more than a dozen channels through which the excited atom penetrates. The large slots on the top separate the three phases of the precisely aligned collimator cascade. Credit: Georgia Tech / Christopher Moore

Quantum entanglement beam

Heat-grown atoms in a ray can also be converted to Rydberg atoms, which gives a granucopy of quantum properties.

When an atom is sufficiently energized, its ultimate breakthrough electron shock is as far as the atomic bubbles in size. Orbiting so far out with so much energy, the outermost electron appears as a lone electron of a hydrogen atom, and the Rydberg atom seems to have only one proton.

"You can construct certain types of multi-quantum joining using the Rydberg states because the atoms interact with each other much stronger than two atoms in the ground state," Raman said.

"Rydberg atoms can also develop future sensor technologies because they are sensitive for flows that apply or in electronic fields less than an electron in scale, "Ayazi said." They could also be used in quantum information processing. "

Silicon trace lithographs

The researchers designed a surprisingly comfortable way To make the new collimator, which could encourage manufacturers to assume it: they cut long, extremely narrow channels through a silicon plate running parallel to its flat surface. The channels were like shotgun squares erected side by side to eject a series of atomic beams. 19659005] Silicone is an exceptionally narrow material for the atoms to fly through and is also used in many existing microelectronic and computer technologies. It opens the possibility of combining these techniques on a chip with the new miniature collimator. Lithography, which is used to etch existing chip technology, was used to precisely cut the collimator's channels.

The researchers' greatest innovation greatly reduces the shotgun spray, ie the signal noise. They sliced ​​two slots in the channels and formed an aligned cascade of three sets of parallel arrays of barrels. Atoms that fly at angled angles jump out of the channels at the slots and those who fly reasonably parallel in the first set of channels continue on to the next, the process is repeated from the second to the third group of channels. This gives the new collimator's atomic beams its exceptional straightness.

Extremely accurate measurements of atomic states for quantum computation

More information:
Chao Li et al., Cascade collimator for atomic beams traveling in flat silicon devices, Nature Communications (2019). DOI: 10,1038 / s41467-019-09647-3

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Georgia Institute of Technology

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