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Time and Frequency

clock-transition scan at 128x speedup

Recorded at 2x speed with OBS from the youtube live-stream, then converted to MP4 with VLC, then run twice through Garmin Virb Edit producing 8x speedup both times.

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Time and Frequency

88Sr+ clock transition in a low magnetic field

Live-stream from the VTT MIKES ion-clock lab

We've completed a second magnetic shielding layer, based on the same plywood+METGLAS concept as the first shield. This should further shield the 88Sr+ ion from unwanted magnetic field fluctuations. To further reduce the DC-field we've now applied a counter-field using a few milliAmps of current through three coils that surround the ion trap.

When the Zeeman components are this close together (the field is <0.4 uT) it is fairly quick to scan over the components. Here we see the four innermost pairs of peaks +/-C1 through +/-C4 of the clock-transition at 445 THz (674nm red light!). One scan runs in about one hour - and will be plotted on top of the older scans. We shoot 100 pulses of the laser-light at the ion and the height of the bar shows how many times we successfully drove the ion into the dark clock-state.

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Time and Frequency

~800Hz wide clock-transition in 88Sr+

Here's the latest preliminary result from the VTT MIKES 88Sr+ ion clock (in case you missed the live-stream!):

-C2 component of the clock transition at 445 THz in 88Sr+

This shows a ~2 kHz slice (left axis, double the 1 kHz shown, because we plot the input frequency of a double-pass AOM) of the optical spectrum around 445 THz, where we expect to find the -C2 Zeeman component of the clock-transition in 88Sr+ (a secondary representation of the SI second). The right axis shows the probe-pulse length in seconds, where we see only a few percent excitation (z-axis) at short pulse lengths, but a clearer signal up to >10% at longer probe pulse lengths of 40 and 50 ms.

It ain't pretty, but considering the carrier is at 445 THz, this noisy and broad looking 800 Hz wide peak is still a measurement to a relative level of 2e-12. When fully operational a line-width of <10 Hz (2e-14) is expected.

Our experiment now has one metglas magnetic shield. This particular Zeeman component (-C2) has a sensitivity of 11 kHz/uT, so the observed linewidth of 800 Hz could be caused by a low-frequency AC magnetic field with an amplitude of 30-40 nT or so. We think the remaining DC-field is around 1.6 uT (down from 66 uT without the metglas shield).

Among other improvements, next is building a second metglas shield, to reduce AC fluctuations in the magnetic shield even further. Stay tuned...

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Time and Frequency

Trapping again

Since about July 15th our single-ion experiment has been in maintenance-mode, but today again some trapping!

The central 'pale blue dot' is a single 88Sr+ ion trapped between the inner electrodes (cylindrical) which are driven with a ~400 Vpp ~16 MHz sine-wave to create a Paul trap. The outer conical electrodes are grounded. The window-reflections of the 422nm cooling laser create the larger circular spots in the top half of the picture. A single laser-cooled 88Sr+ ion emits around 10 million photons per second, making it easily visible on 1s or longer exposures with a DSLR. Sigma 105mm/F2.8 macro objective with a short (13mm?) extension-tube.

Live stream:

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Time and Frequency

Lab live-stream: Trapped 88Sr+ ion

Live-stream from the VTT MIKES ion clock lab.

We started trapping in this 2nd-generation VTT MIKES ion trap in early May and we are now working with characterizing the trap and laser cooling. Hopefully the ion stays in the trap for several days!

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Time and Frequency

Tuesday Trapping

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Time and Frequency

Strontium ion(s) trapped!


A major milestone towards the ion clock was reached today: we trapped the first Strontium ions!

This involves first heating a dispenser that contains Strontium atoms with about 4-5 W (4 A and 1 V). The atoms that fly out of the dispenser are then photoionized using two blue lasers, one at 461 nm and another at 405 nm (we use a laser from a blue-ray drive for this!). We now have Sr+ ions that can be trapped in a Paul trap. A high-voltage (300 Vpp) ~10 MHz sine-wave is applied to the electrodes of the trap. Another blue laser at 422 nm is then used both for laser-cooling and as a means to detect the ion. What we see in the video is the ion fluorescence at 422 nm when it jumps down to the ground state from an excited state. The excited state can also decay into a dark state and we need a re-pump laser at 1092 nm to keep the ion in the Doppler cooling cycle. The fluorescence emitted from one or a few ions is very weak, and we used an image-intensifier and a CCD camera with 500 ms to 1 s exposure time for this video.

The camera software produces FITS frames as output. I used these commands to make the video:

On the last line "3" is the desired frame-rate of the output. I then concatenated a few of these videos together with

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Time and Frequency

Strontium 461nm absorption/fluorescence revisited

This is the same experiment we did back in April, but now "in-situ" in another vacuum system that houses our RF endcap trap. The thin ray of light that slowly switches on and off is a 461nm blue laser-beam that excites Strontium atoms that fly in from the lower right corner of the picture. The on/off switching happens because we slowly scan the laser frequency back and forth and as a result different parts of the atom-stream absorb and emit.

Next stop: ionizing the atoms and trapping a single ion in the RF trap.

See also:

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Time and Frequency

Strontium Blues

We've been playing with a blue laser at 461 nm in the lab lately. If tuned to just the right frequency (wavelength) neutral Strontium atoms will strongly absorb the laser light. Shortly (5 nanoseconds) after that the atoms emit at 461nm also, allowing us to see them:

strontium_461

The atoms originate from a hot "oven" at the right. It glows dark red because it's heated by driving a 5 A to 7 A current through it. The cloud of absorbing atoms glows at 461nm in the centre of the picture.

We can scan the laser frequency by adjusting the current through the diode-laser that produces the light. If the frequency is too low or too high we'll see nothing as the light will just pass through the cloud of atoms without interacting. On each side of the correct absorption frequency we'll see different parts of the atom cloud light up. This happens because the atoms stream out of the oven in slightly different directions, so they experience a different Doppler shift and will react to light with a wavelength slightly to the blue or red from the centre of the absorption-line at 461nm.

When slowly scanning the laser frequency over the absorption-line we got these nice videos. One with a narrow beam and one where the laser beam was expanded.

These were shot with a Canon DSLR so be sure to view them in HD on youtube!