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Superfluid 4He interferometers: construction and experiments

  • Author(s): Joshi, Aditya Ajit
  • Advisor(s): Packard, Richard E
  • et al.

This dissertation has two main goals: to highlight some new results in the field of superfluid 4He interferometry and to provide an in-depth, "hands-on" guide to the physics, design, construction, testing and operation of a continuously operating, fluxlocked 4He dc-SHeQUID (Superfluid Helium Quantum Interference Device). Many of these topics haven't really been addressed in writing and the hapless new experimenter seeking to develop a SHeQUID is generally forced to reinvent the wheel rather than start at the frontier and push it forward. We would like to prevent that by making this a comprehensive guide to building and operating SHeQUIDs.

We have optimized the fabrication of the nanoscale aperture arrays that are the very heart of the SHeQUID and resolved long-standing issues with their durability and long-term usability. A detailed report on this should assist in avoiding the many pitfalls that await those who fabricate and use these aperture arrays.

We have constructed a new, modular SHeQUID that is designed to be easily adaptable to a wide array of proposed experiments without the necessity of rebuilding and reassembling key components like the displacement transducer. We have automated its working as a continuously operating, linearized (flux-locked) interferometer by using the so-called "chemical potential battery" in conjunction with a feedback system. We have also constructed a new reorientation system that is several orders of magnitude quieter than its predecessors. Together, these developments have allowed us to measure a changing rotation field in real time, a new development for this kind of device. We have also developed a module that allows control of the reorientation stage by automated data-taking software for investigating long-term drifts (by safely sweeping the stage back and forth).

We have also investigated the chemical potential battery in further detail and report some fascinating nonlinear mode locking phenomena that have important consequences for practical applications of these devices. We present a crude model that should help in designing and optimizing future devices by giving us at least an initial predictive tool for the critical heater power needed to initiate battery states.

Finally, we analyze some misconceptions about SHeQUIDs regarding what may be considered the logical next step towards improving a double-slit interferometer - the superfluid diffraction grating. We present evidence (experiments, simulations and analytical results) for the somewhat subtle reasons why gratings would be less useful than previously believed and clarifies the proper, limited sense in which such devices do improve SHeQUIDs. We also discuss some possible implications of these issues for the field of (electronic) dc-SQUIDs.

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