Atom-chip based quantum gravimetry for the precise determination of absolute local gravity
Abstract:We present a novel technique for the precise measurement of absolute local gravity based on cold atom interferometry. Atom interferometry utilizes the interference of matter waves interrogated by laser light to read out inertial forces. Today's generation of these devices typically operate with test mass samples, that consists of ensembles of laser cooled atoms. Their performance is limited by the velocity spread and finite-size of the test masses that impose systematic uncertainties at the level of a few µGal. Rather than laser cooled atoms we employ quantum degenerate ensembles, so called Bose-Einstein condensates, as ultra-sensitive probes for gravity. These sources offer unique properties in temperature as well as in ensemble size that will allow to overcome the current limitations with the next generation of sensors. Furthermore, atom-chip technologies offer the possibility to generate Bose-Einstein condensates in a fast and reliable way. We show a lab-based prototype that uses the atom-chip itself to retro-reflect the interrogation laser and thus serving as inertial reference inside the vacuum. With this setup it is possible to demonstrate all necessary steps to measure gravity, including the preparation of the source, spanning an interferometer as well as the detection of the output signal, within an area of 1 cm3 right below the atom-chip and to analyze relevant systematic effects. In the framework of the center of excellence geoQ a next generation device is under construction at the Institut für Quantenoptik, that will allow for in-field measurements. This device will feature a state-of-the-art atom-chip source with a high-flux of ultra-cold atoms at a repetition rate of 1-2 Hz. In cooperation with the Müller group at the Institut für Erdmessung the sensor will be characterized in the laboratory first, to be ultimately employed in campaigns to measure the Fennoscandian uplift at the level of 1 µGal.
The presented work is part of the center of excellence geoQ (SFB 1128), funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). This work is supported by the German Space Agency (DLR) with funds provided by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) due to an enactment of the German Bundestag under grant numbers DLR 50 1131-1137 (QUANTUS-III).