CAMD Microstructures to be Used in Nobel Laureate’s Research

Dustin Hite joined CAMD in 1995 as a Research Associate, and his experiences there led him to expand his horizons by joining the graduate school at LSU. When he graduated in 2001 with his Ph.D. from the LSU Department of Physics and Astronomy, he had no idea that his research interests would place him in the laboratory of a Nobel Laureate. He was interested in surface interactions with nearby laser-cooled atoms – atoms so cold that each behaved as a single quantum-mechanical system, whose properties could be used, among other things, to make the world’s most precise atomic clocks.

In 2012, his group leader, David J. Wineland of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder, Colorado, shared the Nobel Prize in physics with Serge Haroche of the École Normale Supérieure in Paris for their “ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems.” Their labs continue to study these systems since they are thought to be a potential basis for the new field of quantum computing, which would enable calculations much faster and more complicated than current computers allow.

One way to measure these quantum properties is to use surface-electrode traps to confine ionized atoms (having lost an electron) and measure their response optically or to applied electric or magnetic fields. The stylus trap shown in the figure is a microstructure fabricated at CAMD, where the ion is suspended over the central electrode, confined by an rf field. The four corner-posts allow for a dc electric field to precisely adjust the ion’s location.

Sandia National Lab assisted the NIST team with making the first versions of this ion trap, but taller microstructures were required, so they enlisted CAMD to build the next generation, shown in the micrograph, above.

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