Current Research

iqClock [Link]

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Testbed setup with lattice beam and clock beam in vertical direction

Optical clocks are amazingly stable frequency standards, which would be off by only one second over the age of the universe. Bringing those clocks from the laboratory into a robust and compact form will have a large impact on telecommunication (e.g. network synchronization, traffic bandwidth, GPS free navigation), geology (e.g. underground exploration, monitoring of water tables or ice sheets), astronomy (e.g. low-frequency gravitational wave detection, radio telescope synchronization), and other fields. Likewise, techniques developed for robust clocks will improve laboratory clocks, potentially leading to physics beyond the standard model.

 

At the University of Birmingham, we help realising a compact and transportable strontium-based optical atomic clock demonstrator built from industry-developed subsystems – a deliverable of the iqClock project. The demonstrator will be integrated at our laboratory. In order to facilitate the system integration, we use an atomic clock testbed system to assess the performance of the industry-built components and subsystems. The testbed is completed in its first phase (see picture) and capable of realising ultra-cold atoms of 88Sr in optical lattice. In a subsequent phase, we will transform the testbed system into a 87Sr-based frequency standard.

Long Range Interaction 

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Assembly of ultra-high vacuum and science chamber 

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Schematics of the LRI experiment 

This project aims to characterise and study long-range interactions with collective light scattering from a dense, ultracold Sr atomic ensemble trapped in deep optical lattice in a Mott insulator state. Such long range dipole-dipole interactions between atoms are induced via coherent exchange of photons when the inter-atomic distance is comparable to or smaller than the wavelength of the photons emitted by atoms.

 

In order to attest the dipolar interactions in the experiment, the Sr atoms are initially trapped in the MOT [2], and then transferred to an optical dipole trap for preparing a dense ultracold Sr atomic ensemble. The atoms will then be loaded in a 3D optical lattice and finally to a Mott insulator state. Once the atoms are loaded, the detection of long-range interactions can be facilitated with 2.6 µm laser as a probe. The Sr system provides an alternative platform to study long-lived collective states, opening pathways for potential applications in quantum information processing.

SOC-2; Space Optical Clock – II [Link]

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​Today we use atomic clocks and strive for always higher precision levels to be achieved with new quantum technologies, in particular optical ones. The use of atomic clocks in space is a new challenge, which the SOC2 project takes on by developing compact and reliable designs.​

The Quantum Enabled Radar project

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Aveillant L-band staring radar on campus

Most radar systems are built for the purpose of detection and sensing of targets. Today, with the increasing complexity of the real world, we have to operate radars under challenging conditions such as high clutter urban environments and external interference. These conditions reduce the detection capability of radar systems. The quantum enabled radar network has the potential to overcome a lot of these issues with the use of technologies such as ultra-stable quantum oscillators to improve the phase noise of the radar’s local oscillator by orders of magnitude and enhance the sensitivity of the radar.

MoSaiQC: Modular Systems for Advanced Integrated Quantum Clocks [Link]

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​​The unprecedented control over cold atoms has resulted in an extremely precise measurement of time and frequencies. In our lab, we work on enabling concepts through to asking very fundamental questions at the cutting edge of science.  We have PhD positions within the EU-ITN-MoSaiQC to train a cohort of young scientists at the frontiers of physics.  The PhDs will work on cutting edge projects developing novel concepts relevant to metrology and fundamental science. They will have access to our state-of-the-art labs and will also benefit from the European Collaborations as well as from our direct link to the UK National Quantum Technology Hub in Sensors and Metrology

ICON: International Clock and Oscillator Networking 

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Our research program aims to understand the interface challenges and clock frequency systematic shifts and uncertainties arising from direct clock frequency comparisons at the 10-18 level. This is crucial both to the national research base, and to the international base, especially with regard to a future SI second redefinition and its relevance to fundamental physics and emerging quantum technologies.

Completed Projects

  • FACT – Future Atomic Clock Technologies, EU Marie Curie ITN network with 14 partners. [Link]

  • QTEA – Quantum Sensor Technologies and Applications, EU ITN Network. [Link]

  • GaNAMP [Link]

  • SLATE: Strontium Lattice for Commercial Optical Clocks [Link]

  • DPSS Laser stabilised at 813nm for Sr Clock Application  [Link]

  • QSense [Link]

  • Miniature Optical Lattice Clock

  • Strontium Optical LAttice Clock (SOLACE) [Link]

  • Compact optics for high performance portable atomic timing and quantum sensors [Link]

  • Network synchronisation better than 1ns using a frequency comb [Link]

  • PHASE-ZERO [Link]

  • iQ Clik