Microscopic Optical Trapping of Ultracold Neutral Atoms for Applications in Quantum Information

Copley-May, Michael (2019). Microscopic Optical Trapping of Ultracold Neutral Atoms for Applications in Quantum Information. PhD thesis The Open University.

Abstract

In this thesis, the development of an experimental system for microscopic dipole trapping of ultracold neutral rubidium atoms is presented. The purpose of this system is to advance towards the experimental realisation of a quantum computational protocol utilising neutral atoms as qubits. It is intended that the quantum gate operations between qubits will be implemented by a scheme using Rydberg blockade, imposing a restriction on the maximum size of the dipole-trapped atom cloud; the spatial extent of the atomic ensemble contained in this trap must be smaller than the blockade radius to ensure that one single collective Rydberg state per qubit can be achieved. Therefore the experiment was designed with the intent of fulfilling these challenging requirements.

This project involved the design and construction of an improved ultra-high vacuum chamber containing the optical setup for the experiment, successfully achieving pressures below 5 x 10-10 mbar. A magneto-optical trap was produced to act as a background reservoir of atoms from which to load the dipole trap. Numerous experimental measurements were done to characterise the physical properties of the trapped atoms, including the number, density and temperature of atoms, as well as the lifetime of the trap. The results of these measurements led to the conclusion that a suitable reservoir for loading the dipole trap had been produced.

Significant work was carried out to set up and obtain the dipole trap in the laboratory. Measurements of the characteristic properties of the trap and the atoms confined in the trap were carried out to investigate the behaviour of the atoms and to validate our design. Ultimately a trap containing tens of atoms was achieved, with an atom cloud diameter of ~1.2 µm in two dimensions, being well within the estimated Rydberg blockade radius of ~4.4 µm for n ~ 60 as intended. The two-photon excitation laser system for the probing of Rydberg states, for future applications in Rydberg blockade-based quantum gate operations, was also developed during the course of this work. Different Rydberg states were detected experimentally by the observation of Autler-Townes splitting in a three-level atom scheme.

Overall, the work presented in this thesis provides a strong groundwork for the advancement towards neutral atom-based quantum gates, including the development of the experimental system and the production of standard procedures to carry out characterisation measurements of the traps efficiently in the future. The main achievements of this work are the establishment of the experimental apparatus, the achievement of a microscopic dipole trap which conforms to the requirements of an atomic qubit, and the significant growth in the knowledge of atom trapping specific to our system.

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