Researchers have developed a brand-new strategy (optical metasurface) that will allow quantum sensors to get much smaller than they are right now. Currently used in sensing devices, quantum technology engineers and manipulates atoms at extremely low temperatures by carefully regulating laser beams. To handle this, the atoms must be kept in a vacuum-sealed container where they can be cooled to the required temperatures.
A major challenge in miniaturizing the instruments is reducing the space required by the laser beams, which usually need to be arranged in three pairs, set at angles. The photons that the lasers fire at the moving atoms reduce their velocity and cause them to cool down.
The new results demonstrate how a novel method can be applied to lessen the room required for the laser delivery system. The technique employs light-controllable optical metasurface devices. A single beam can be divided into five identical beams that can be used to supercool the atoms using a metasurface optical device. A single chip can replace the complex optical components that comprise the cooling system.
The team has created an optical chip with a 0.5mm width, creating a platform for future sensing devices with a cube-shaped size of about 30cm. The platform’s size and performance will then be optimized to create the highest level of sensitivity for each application.
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