Atom chips: quantum gases on the (sub)micron scale

Peter Kruger,

School of Physics and Astronomy, The University of Nottingham

The field of ultracold atoms links atomic and condensed matter physics. The development of laser cooling and trapping techniques, including the ability to routinely produce quantum degenerate gases, has advanced to the point where non-trivial complex quantum systems can be prepared and controlled, and their subsequent evolution can be observed. This ability opens the path to investigations of non-equilibrium dynamics of interacting quantum many-body systems and device-oriented quantum technology development alike. In this talk I will introduce the concept of an atom chip and show how such a miniaturized and integrated manipulation toolbox for quantum gases leads to a large variety of new possibilities for both fundamental science and applied technology. As a key example of the intimate relation to condensed matter physics, I will illustrate how new materials and geometries, such as graphene films, provide means to further miniaturization, where the separation of a nanokelvin trapped gas and a room-temperature solid can be reduced to well within a micron. I will discuss new possibilities for studies of non-equilibrium dynamics arising in this regime, in which the gas's environment can be tailored with a resolution beyond relevant intrinsic length scales (healing length). Conversely, a quantum gas trapped at a micron or less distance from a surface is a highly sensitive probe for structure and transport within the solid, where high spatial resolution and field sensitivity are uniquely combined.