Friday, November 4, 2011, 3pm
Innovation Hall room 136

Ana Maria Rey

Building the Most Precise Atomic Clocks in the World by Studying Many-Body Physics

About 60 years ago, the second was defined by the Earth’s rotation. However, with the discovery of quantum mechanics and the quantized nature of the atomic energy levels, it became clear that atomic clocks could be more accurate and more precise than any mechanical or celestial reference previously known to man. Thus, in 1967 the second was redefined  in terms of atomic transitions in the microwave domain between two energy levels of cesium atoms. The  new generation of frequency standards,  however,  are optical clocks based  on single trapped ions or neutral atoms with optical transition frequencies, i.e. up to six orders of magnitude higher than microwaves. While currently the single trapped  ion clocks are at the forefront, neutral atom optical clocks have the potential to outperform  the latter due to the  possibility to simultaneously interrogate a large number of neutral atoms; This will be however only possible if we can understand and control atom-atom interactions.  In this talk I am going to describe our recent progress towards the understanding of the atomic collisions during clock operation. I will also explain why a precise characterization of the many-body physics could be extremely useful towards the further application of clock technology on quantum information sciences.