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Compton clock and recoil frequency measurements using a large momentum transfer atom interferometer


Light-pulse atom interferometers have been used as quantum inertial sensors and for precision tests of fundamental laws of physics. For higher contrast, we apply conjugate Ramsey-Borde interferometers to cancel out vibrational noise and top mirror tilting to compensate the Coriolis force. For higher sensitivity, we implement Bragg diffraction and Bloch oscillations for large momentum transfer to increase the enclosed area of our atom interferometer. We also utilize Raman sideband cooling in our experimental setup, which increases the overall signal about twentyfold, and increases the contrast by suppressing the thermal expansion of the atom cloud.

By combining measurements of recoil frequency and a frequency comb, we present the first clock referenced to the mass of a single particle. The rest mass of a particle defines its Compton frequency, mc^2/h through relativity and quantum mechanics, and thereby sets a fundamental timescale. Our clock stabilizes a 10 MHz radio frequency signal to a certain fraction of the cesium Compton frequency. Future work could result in an elementary particle (electron) or even antimatter (antihydrogen) clock, opening up new ways to test CPT symmetry and the equivalence principle.

We also present our progress towards a new determination of the fine structure constant. The fine structure constant value obtained by our cesium Compton clock measurement is about three times better compared with the earlier cesium recoil frequency result. After combining Bragg diffraction and Bloch oscillations, we achieved 0.33 ppb sensitivity (0.66 ppb uncertainty of the recoil frequency measurement) in 6 hours, which is about two times better than the previous best recoil frequency measurement. The leading systematic effect is also reduced by a factor of 2.75.

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