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JILA Team Invents New Way to 'See' the Quantum World

Artwork made with JILAs new imaging technique, false-color representations of atoms detected in the ground state (blue) or excited state (red).

A new imaging technique developed by researchers at JILA and the U.S. National Institutes of Standards and Technology produces rapid, precise measurements of quantum behavior in an atomic clock as visual art.

Credit: G. Edwards Marti/JILA

Researchers at JILA, a joint institute of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a new imaging technique that produces rapid, precise measurements of quantum behavior in an atomic clock in the form of near-instant visual art.

The method combines spectroscopy with high-resolution microscopy to create spatial maps of energy shifts among the atoms in a three-dimensional strontium lattice atomic clock, and it provides information about each atom's location and quantum state.

In addition, the technique rapidly measures physical effects that are important to atomic clocks, improving the clock's precision and adding new atomic-level detail to studies of phenomena such as magnetism and superconductivity.

In a demonstration, the JILA team created a series of images to map small frequency shifts across different regions of the lattice. The team achieved a record frequency precision of 2.5 x 10-19.

From NIST News
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