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Ultracold atom interferometry in space

M.D. Lachmann1,16, H. Ahlers1,16, D. Becker1, A.N. Dinkelaker2,12, J. Grosse3,4, O. Hellmig5, H. Müntinga3,13, V. Schkolnik2, S.T. Seidel1,14, T. Wendrich1, A. Wenzlawski6, B. Carrick7,15, N. Gaaloul1, D. Lüdtke7, C. Braxmaier3,4, W. Ertmer1, M. Krutzik2, C. Lämmerzahl3, A. Peters2, W.P. Schleich8,9,10, K. Sengstock5, A. Wicht11, P. Windpassinger6 & E.M. Rasel1

Published in:

Nat. Commun., vol. 12, art. 1317, doi:10.1038/s41467-021-21628-z (2021).


Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) in free fall constitute a promising source for space-borne interferometry. Indeed, BECs enjoy a slowly expanding wave function, display a large spatial coherence and can be engineered and probed by optical techniques. Here we explore matterwave fringes of multiple spinor components of a BEC released in free fall employing lightpulses to drive Bragg processes and induce phase imprinting on a sounding rocket. The prevailing microgravity played a crucial role in the observation of these interferences which not only reveal the spatial coherence of the condensates but also allow us to measure differential forces. Our work marks the beginning of matter-wave interferometry in space with future applications in fundamental physics, navigation and earth observation.

1 Institute of Quantum Optics and QUEST-Leibniz Research School, Leibniz University Hannover, Hannover, 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 Department of Enabling Technologies, 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 Institute for Software Technology, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Brunswick, Germany
8 Institut für Quantenphysik and Center for Integrated Quantum Science and Technology (IQST), Ulm, Germany
9 Institute of Quantum Technologies, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Ulm, Germany
10 Hagler Institute for Advanced Study at Texas A&M University; Texas A&M AgriLife Research; Institute for Quantum Science and Engineering (IQSE) and Department of Physics and Astronomy, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA
11 Ferdinand-Braun-Institut, Leibniz-Institut für Höchstfrequenztechnik, Berlin, Germany
12 Present address: Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
13 Present address: Institute for Satellite Geodesy and Inertial Sensing, German Aerospace Center (DLR) Bremen, Germany
14 Present address: Airbus Defense and Space GmbH, Taufkirchen, Germany
15 Present address: MORABA, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Weßling, Germany
16 These authors contributed equally: Maike D. Lachmann, Holger Ahlers

© The Author(s) 2021.
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