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Quantum Logic Spectroscopy of Highly Charged Ions


Micke,  Peter
Division Prof. Dr. Thomas Pfeifer, MPI for Nuclear Physics, Max Planck Society;

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Micke, P. (2020). Quantum Logic Spectroscopy of Highly Charged Ions. PhD Thesis, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universität, Hannover.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-4A6B-D
Fundamental interactions and symmetries define the structure and properties of all matter, in particular of its small and diverse visible constituents—the atoms. The study of their distinctive spectra through precision spectroscopy is therefore a vital tool to advance our understanding of nature. Highly charged ions (HCIs) constitute the largest fraction of all atoms since every atom has as many charge states as electrons it can bind. Although most of the matter on Earth is neutral, HCIs are ubiquitous in the universe and their systematic study is essential not only for atomic physics but eminently for astrophysics, nuclear physics, and fusion research, among others. Recently, HCIs have been identified as ideal candidates for sensitive tests of physics beyond the Standard Model of particle physics and for use in future high-accuracy optical atomic clocks. However, the realization of such proposals has been hindered by the hitherto constrained laboratory control and limited spectroscopic accuracy of about parts-per-million fractional uncertainty levels.

This thesis reports the first coherent laser spectroscopy of HCIs, boosting the achievable spectroscopic precision by eight orders of magnitude compared to traditional spectroscopy methods. The 2P1/2–2P3/2 fine-structure ground-state transition in highly charged 40Ar13+ at an optical wavelength of 441 nm was chosen as a proof-of-principle case. A single ion of this species was isolated from a megakelvin-hot plasma cloud and co-trapped together with a laser-cooled singly charged 9Be+ ion in a two-ion crystal, confined in the harmonic potential of a cryogenic linear Paul trap. This coupled quantum-mechanical system was then cooled to its ground state of axial motion, corresponding to the lowest temperature of a HCI ever achieved. The spectroscopy was realized by implementing quantum logic techniques which allow preparation of the quantum state of the HCI and to map its electronic state after spectroscopy onto the 9Be+ logic ion in order to detect it there with high efficiency through electron shelving. In addition to the increase of spectroscopic precision, the excited-state lifetime and g-factor were measured—the latter one to unprecedented accuracy, resolving effects from special relativity, interelectronic interactions, and quantum electrodynamics. Moreover, it settled a discrepancy between theoretical predictions.

The demonstrated techniques are not limited to the specific 40Ar13+ species but universally applicable to other HCIs. Thereby, this work unlocks the potential of HCIs for unrivaled tests of fundamental physics, the search for new physics—such as a 5th force, variations of fundamental constants and dark matter candidates—as well as the use of HCIs in novel optical atomic clocks.