Ph.D., 1998, Rice
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Experimental Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics
Since its first observation in 1995, the process of Bose-Einstein condensation of atomic gases has captured the imagination of many physicists. In this phenomenon, a large number of atoms come to occupy the same quantum state, causing the normally ethereal wave function to act rather as a classical, observable wave. Our research is focused on developing practical applications for these condensates. In particular, we are developing condensate interferometry, in which the atom wave is coherently separated into pieces which are later recombined. The result of the recombination depends sensitively on the surrounding environment, meaning that it can be used as a sensor for measuring inertial effects like gravity or rotation, and electromagnetic effects like fields or atomic interactions.
Our interferometer uses atoms confined in a magnetic trap, which allows interaction times of up to one second and wave-packet separations of up to half a millimeter. These are very large scales for atomic phenomena, and they illustrate the unusual behavior of quantum system on a macroscopic scale. Current projects include high-precision measurements of gravity, rotation, and atomic polarizability. Longer term goals include studying atom-surface interactions and development of techniques to use entangled states to improve measurement precision.
O. Garcia, B. Deissler, K.J. Hughes, J.M. Reeves and C.A. Sackett, “Bose-Einstein condensate interferometer with macroscopic arm separation”, Physical Review A 74, 031601(R) (2006).
K.J. Hughes, J.H.T. Burke, and C.A. Sackett, “Suspension of Atoms Using Optical Pulses, and Application to Gravimetry”, Physical Review Letters 102, 150403 (2009).
J.H.T. Burke and C.A. Sackett, “Scalable Bose-Einstein-condensate Sagnac interferometer in a linear trap”, Physical Review A 80, 061603(R) (2009).