Space-borne Bose-Einstein condensation for precision interferometry

D. Becker1,16, M.D. Lachmann1,16, S.T. Seidel1,15,16, H. Ahlers1, A.N. Dinkelaker2, J. Grosse3,4, O. Hellmig5, H. Müntinga3, V. Schkolnik2, T. Wendrich1, A. Wenzlawski6, B. Weps7, R. Corgier1,8, T. Franz7, N. Gaaloul1, W. Herr1, D. Lüdtke7, M. Popp1, S. Amri8, H. Duncker5, M. Erbe9, A. Kohfeldt9, A. Kubelka-Lange3, C. Braxmaier3,4, E. Charron8, W. Ertmer1, M. Krutzik2, C. Lämmerzahl3, A. Peters2, W.P. Schleich10,11,12,13, K. Sengstock5, R. Walser14, A. Wicht9, P. Windpassinger6 & E.M. Rasel1

Published in:

Nature, vol. 562, no. 7727, pp. 391-395 (2018).

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Owing to the low-gravity conditions in space, space-borne laboratories enable experiments with extended free-fall times. Because Bose-Einstein condensates have an extremely low expansion energy, space-borne atom interferometers based on Bose-Einstein condensation have the potential to have much greater sensitivity to inertial forces than do similar ground-based interferometers. On 23 January 2017, as part of the sounding-rocket mission MAIUS-1, we created Bose-Einstein condensates in space and conducted 110 experiments central to matter-wave interferometry, including laser cooling and trapping of atoms in the presence of the large accelerations experienced during launch. Here we report on experiments conducted during the six minutes of in-space flight in which we studied the phase transition from a thermal ensemble to a Bose-Einstein condensate and the collective dynamics of the resulting condensate. Our results provide insights into conducting cold-atom experiments in space, such as precision interferometry, and pave the way to miniaturizing cold-atom and photon-based quantum information concepts for satellite-based implementation. In addition, space-borne Bose-Einstein condensation opens up the possibility of quantum gas experiments in low-gravity conditions1,2.

1 Institute of Quantum Optics, QUEST-Leibniz Research School, Leibniz University Hannover, Hanover, Germany
2 Department of Physics, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany
3 Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM), University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
4 Institute of Space Systems, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Bremen, Germany
5 Institute of Laser-Physics, University Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
6 Institute of Physics, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), Mainz, Germany
7 Simulation and Software Technology, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Brunswick, Germany
8 Institut des Sciences Moléculaires d’Orsay (ISMO), CNRS, Université Paris-Sud, Université Paris-Saclay, Orsay, France
9 Ferdinand-Braun-Institut, Leibniz-Institut für Höchstfrequenztechnik, Berlin, Germany
10 Institut für Quantenphysik and Center for Integrated Quantum Science and Technology (IQST), Ulm, Germany
11 Hagler Institute for Advanced Study, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA
12 Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA
13 Institute for Quantum Science and Engineering (IQSE), Department of Physics and Astronomy, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA
14 Institut für Angewandte Physik, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany
15 Present address: OHB System AG, Weßling, Germany
16 These authors contributed equally: D. Becker, M.D. Lachmann, S.T. Seidel