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Towards a Compact Ytterbium Magneto Optical Trap for use in Precision Timekeeping Applications

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posted on 21.01.2022, 04:22 by Benjamin WhiteBenjamin White, Ben SparkesBen Sparkes, Rachel OfferRachel Offer, Ashby HiltonAshby Hilton, Andre LuitenAndre Luiten, Charlie IronsideCharlie Ironside, William Rickard, Xiao Sun

High performance atomic timing systems are essential components in modern technology, with applications ranging from navigation and geodesy to tests of the fundamental theories of physics. Current commercial timing systems are based on microwave technology, which is now over half a century old. State-of-the-art atomic clocks are based on optical transitions, but due to their size and complexity these are mostly confined to the laboratory.

To realise the step change in performance that optical clocks will provide, we must reduce their size weight and power (SWaP), making them compact, portable, and robust. Motivated by this need, at the University of Adelaide we are developing a compact thermal Ytterbium beam clock. While this clock is predicted to have high precision on short and medium time scales, its output may drift over time. To overcome this, we are investigating using a miniature cold atom trap-based clock to provide both long term stability and fundamental accuracy.

We will present our latest results towards the development and characterisation of a compact ytterbium Magneto-Optical Trap (MOT). This includes efforts towards fabricating an efficient diffraction optic to create grating MOTs (gMOTs) using a focused ion beam (FIB) system, to operate at the fast 399 nm cooling transition. This development will drastically reduce the SWaP and complexity of the cold atom system, making it possible to use in a field-deployable device. By achieving this result, we will have demonstrated three key performance metrics: long term stability, accuracy, and reproducibility.

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