Nav: Home

NIST's compact atomic gyroscope displays new twists

July 11, 2019

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have upgraded their compact atomic gyroscope to enable multitasking measurement capabilities and measure its performance, important steps toward practical applications.

Described in a new paper, the quantum gyroscope design and evaluation processes were led by three women -- a highly unusual situation in physics and a source of pride for project leader Elizabeth Donley at NIST. Postdoctoral researchers Yun-Jhih Chen and Azure Hansen totally rebuilt the apparatus over the past couple of years.

"Not only did we build a simple quantum gyroscope, but this is the first time anyone has demonstrated simultaneous measurement of rotation, rotation angle and acceleration with a single source of atoms," Donley said. "Other gyroscopes, including the classical ones currently used in phones and planes, can measure only one axis of rotation. This is also the first time we're reporting a sensitivity for the acceleration and rotation measurements."

The NIST team previously measured rotation with an earlier version of the quantum gyroscope. The apparatus was upgraded to boost the signal strength and data acquisition speed to enable competitive sensitivity measurements. Researchers also added a pattern recognition algorithm derived from machine learning to automatically extract information from images of the atoms.

The NIST gyroscope is an atom interferometer, taking advantage of the fact that atoms can act as both particles and waves. Rotation and acceleration are deduced from images of interfering matter waves (which show the probability of a particle's position in space) from atoms in two different energy states.

Atom interferometers could be used in navigation and geodesy (the study of the shape of the Earth based on measurements of gravity) because of their sensitivity to acceleration and rotation combined with their long-term stability and accuracy. The development of small, lightweight, low-power atom interferometers is key to moving the instruments out of the laboratory to applications in the field.

The NIST team developed a simplified scheme amenable to portable applications using a single, tiny cloud of atoms that falls by only a few millimeters during the measurements. A glass chamber just 1 cubic centimeter in volume contains about 10 million cold rubidium atoms that are trapped and released.

Currently, a full-size optics table is required for the lasers, and a few racks of electronics are needed as well. The laser setup would need to be made more compact and integrated before the gyroscope could be used in the field, Donley said. Other research groups are reducing the size of these laser systems, she added.

The NIST gyroscope's sensitivities for the magnitude and direction of the rotation measurements are 0.033 degrees per second and 0.27 degrees with one second averaging time, respectively. These results are approaching the sensitivity levels achieved by other research groups using much larger atom interferometers, Donley said. Moreover, the NIST gyroscope is unique in that it can measure rotations along two axes and an acceleration along one axis simultaneously with a single source of atoms.

In the NIST gyroscope, when the atoms are first trapped in a cloud and then released to fall under gravity, a laser beam causes them to transition between two energy states. This process involves absorption and emission of light particles, which gives the atoms momentum and causes their matter waves to separate and later recombine to interfere. When the atoms speed up or rotate, their matter waves shift and interfere in predictable ways, visible in images of the expanded cloud.

The atoms are imaged by shining a second, weak laser beam through the cloud. Because atoms in different energy states absorb light of different frequencies, the images show interference bands of atom populations in the two different states. The rotation rate and rotation axis are measured by analyzing the spacing and direction of the interference bands across the atom cloud. Acceleration is measured from changes in the position of the central band. The interferometer is sensitive to acceleration along the direction of the laser beam and sensitive to rotations perpendicular to the beam.

The instrument could be used as a gyrocompass, because the atoms sense rotation in the plane tangential to the surface of Earth. The rotation signals, due to the Earth's rotation, point north, as is useful in navigation.
Paper: Y.-J . Chen, A. Hansen, G.W. Hoth, E. Ivanov, B. Pelle, J. Kitching and E.A. Donley. 2019. Multi-axis atom interferometer gyroscope with a single source of atoms. Physical Review Applied. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevApplied.12.014019

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Related Atoms Articles:

'Hot and messy' entanglement of 15 trillion atoms
In a study published in Nature Communications, ICFO, HDU and UPV researchers report the production of a giant entangled state that may help medical researchers detect extremely faint magnetic signals from the brain.
Exciting apparatus helps atoms see the light
Researchers in the Light-Matter Interactions for Quantum Technologies Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) have generated Rydberg atoms - unusually large excited atoms - near nanometer-thin optical fibers.
Manipulating atoms to make better superconductors
A new study by University of Illinois at Chicago researchers published in the journal Nature Communications shows that it is possible to manipulate individual atoms so that they begin working in a collective pattern that has the potential to become superconducting at higher temperatures.
Grabbing atoms
In a first for quantum physics, University of Otago researchers have 'held' individual atoms in place and observed previously unseen complex atomic interactions.
Chemists allow boron atoms to migrate
Organic molecules with atoms of the semi-metal boron are important building blocks for synthesis products to produce drugs and agricultural chemicals.
2D materials: arrangement of atoms measured in silicene
Silicene consists of a single layer of silicon atoms. In contrast to the ultra-flat material graphene, which is made of carbon, silicene shows surface irregularities that influence its electronic properties.
Atoms don't like jumping rope
Nanooptical traps are a promising building block for quantum technologies.
2000 atoms in two places at once
The quantum superposition principle has been tested on a scale as never before in a new study by scientists at the University of Vienna.
Single atoms as catalysts
Only the outermost layer of a catalyst can play a role in chemical reactions.
How do atoms vibrate in graphene nanostructures?
Researchers from the University of Vienna, the Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Japan, the company JEOL and La Sapienza University in Rome have developed a method capable to measure all phonons existing in a nanostructured material.
More Atoms News and Atoms Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.