This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project seeks to develop the next generation of atom chips for producing and manipulating ultracold atomic gases (temperatures < 1 ÂµK). While atom chips developed in Phase I provided only magnetic control, these new hybrid atom chips will be able to manipulate ultracold matter both magnetically and optically. These chips will be incorporated into atom-chip vacuum cells, allowing optical techniques to be implemented in compact ultracold matter products. In Phase I, we developed silicon/glass wafers for both creating ultrahigh vacuum electrical feedthroughs with near perfect yield as well as in-trap imaging of ultracold matter. In Phase II, we will further develop this technology by incorporating miniature on-chip optical elements as a vehicle for bringing optical potentials (e.g. produced by laser beams) into the vacuum system. Our research plan includes redesigning existing chip layouts to accommodate small-sized optics that will be anodically bonded to silicon regions of the chip. To further enhance functionality, we will pursue both anti-reflection coating of atom chips and redesigns of the connectorization scheme used to bring electrical currents to the chip.
The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is to greatly expand the number and variety of experimental techniques that can be implemented with atom-chip vacuum cells. Of key interest here are optical techniques, such as optical lattices, used to trap and coherently control quantum mechanical systems (e.g. Bose-Einstein condensates). An important application of ultracold lattice-trapped atoms is interferometry, which can be used to realize gyroscopes, accelerometers, and gravimeters that are expected to be orders of magnitude more sensitive than current state-of-the-art technologies. Such devices are crucial for navigational positioning systems and satellite communications, and therefore are of great interest to both commercial and defense-oriented markets. Optical trapping is also vital for the next generation of neutral atomic clocks, whose accuracy is now exceeding a phenomenal 1 part in 10^17 (i.e. a loss of 1 second every 3 billion years). Optically trapped atoms are also ideal for implementing quantum information algorithms, and therefore have many applications in the emerging fields of quantum computation and information processing. For basic science, optical lattices have been used for precision measurements of fundamental constants, some of the most stringent tests of the Standard Model of Physics, and groundbreaking studies of many-body physics.