A Caltech Library Service

Continuous Quantum Measurement of Cold Alkali-Atom Spins


Stockton, John Kenton (2007) Continuous Quantum Measurement of Cold Alkali-Atom Spins. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/7PTX-AB16.


The field of quantum metrology concerns the physical measurement of sensors with a precision comparable to fundamental limits set by quantum mechanics. It is possible to outperform naive interpretations of these limits by using entangled states of the sensor system. One example is that of a spin-squeezed state, in which the uncertainty of one variable is decreased at the expense of another while still obeying Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, improving rotation sensitivity along a chosen axis. These states are potentially useful in devices including atomic clocks, inertial sensors, and magnetometers.

Any model of a quantum metrology device must respect the fact that physical measurements are not passive, as imagined classically, but necessarily invasive. Far from being a negative feature, well-understood quantum measurement can conditionally drive a system into desirable entangled states, including spin-squeezed states. Furthermore, the fundamental randomness of this process can, in principle, be removed with real-time feedback control, motivating an adaptation of classical feedback concepts to the quantum realm.

In this thesis, I describe these ideas in the context of one experimental example. A laser-cooled cloud of cesium spins is polarized along one axis via optical pumping and, subsequently, a linearly polarized far-off resonant probe beam traverses the sample. Due to the interaction Hamiltonian, the optical polarization rotates by an amount nominally proportional to one spin component of the collective spin state, enacting a weak, continuous, nondemolition measurement of that collective variable. This optical Faraday rotation is then measured with a polarimeter and the inherently noisy result used to condition the collective atomic state via a quantum filter, or stochastic master equation. Ideally, this process is capable of producing spin-squeezed states via the measurement itself.

The details of this measurement are investigated in depth, including a derivation of the nonideal polarizability Hamiltonian, an analysis of the projection process with control, and a derivation of the magnetometry sensitivity. Experimentally, we demonstrate continuous measurement of the collective spin state with a large single-shot signal-to-noise ratio and verify many predictions of the model. Finally, we describe attempts to observe the atomic projection noise, which would infer the preparation of spin-squeezed states.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:entanglement; Faraday rotation; magnetometry; quantum feedback; quantum measurement; spin-squeezing
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Physics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Mabuchi, Hideo
Thesis Committee:
  • Mabuchi, Hideo (chair)
  • Weitekamp, Daniel P.
  • Refael, Gil
  • Libbrecht, Kenneth George
Defense Date:11 December 2006
Non-Caltech Author Email:john.stockton (AT)
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-02172007-172548
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:667
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:01 Mar 2007
Last Modified:26 Feb 2020 23:00

Thesis Files

PDF (Thesis.pdf) - Final Version
See Usage Policy.


Repository Staff Only: item control page