Florian SCHRECK (DE)
Scientist in Residency with Dmitry GELFAND & Evelina DOMNITCH
Florian Schreck (DE) is professor of Experimental Quantum Physics at the University of Amsterdam and works on quantum sensors and simulators based on ultracold strontium gases. These devices exploit quantum properties to perform tasks that are out of reach for classical devices. Take a clock as an example, a sensor measuring the flow of time. A clock needs a frequency reference to tell it how fast to tick. A classical clock uses classical references, such as a pendulum or a quartz crystal. These man-made devices can never be fabricated identical to each other and therefore every classical clock ticks differently. A good quartz clock goes wrong by about a second in ten thousand years. In a quantum clock the quantized energy levels of atoms provide the frequency reference, namely the electromagnetic radiation needed to drive a transition between two levels. Atoms are made by nature and all atoms of a certain isotope are the same, at least as far as we know. To build a quantum clock one “only” needs to read out the frequency of a suitable atomic transition. The best such clocks go wrong by only one second over the lifetime of the universe. Comparing such clocks can reveal that time flows slower deeper down a gravitational well and just a 1cm height difference is enough to detect this relativistic effect with the best clocks. They can also be used to test fundamental physics, to improve navigation or synchronize communication networks. Schreck’s group is building a novel type of clock, a superradiant clock, within the Quantum Flagship consortium iqClock.
Atoms can also be used to sense accelerations with high precision. To achieve this, a beam of atoms is split such that each atom is in a superposition state and follows two different paths through a vacuum chamber. When the beams are recombined they interfere and one can learn about the acceleration experienced by the experimental setup while the atoms were in free flight. Schreck’s group is attempting to build a continuous atom laser, which would be the ultimate source four atom interferometers. On the way to this goal they recently created a Bose-Einstein condensate that lives in steady-state for as long as they want, unlike previous atomic BECs, which decay on a timescale of seconds.
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