Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Physics

First Advisor

James K. Thompson

Second Advisor

Jun Ye

Third Advisor

Murray J. Holland

Fourth Advisor

Steven T. Cundiff

Fifth Advisor

Robert R. McLeod

Abstract

By allowing a large ensemble of laser cooled and trapped 87Rb atoms to interact collectively with an optical cavity, I have explored two phenomena that may prove useful for enhancing precision measurements: superradiant lasing and spin squeezing.

Superradiant lasers have been proposed as future ultrastable optical frequency references, with predicted linewidths < 1 millihertz. These lasers operate in an unusual regime of laser physics where collective emission from an atomic ensemble maps the quantum phase stored in the atoms onto the optical cavity field. I will give an overview of my experimental work using a cold-atom, superradiant Raman laser as a model system to confirm a number of the key predictions concerning superradiant lasing, including the possibility of coherent emission with < 1 intracavity photon on average and greatly reduced sensitivity to cavity frequency noise.

I also present work using cavity-aided, coherence-preserving measurements of the atomic state population to create entanglement between atoms. The entanglement enables more precise estimation of the quantum phase at the heart of nearly all precision measurements and sensors utilizing quantum objects. By utilizing a cycling transition for the quantum non-demolition probe, we have reduced by several orders of magnitude the measurement induced back-action caused by spontaneous Raman transitions. We directly observe, with no background subtraction, a spin squeezed state with sensitivity to measuring a quantum phase enhanced 10.5 times in variance (i.e. 10.2 dB) beyond the standard quantum limit for an unentangled state. This experimental breakthrough demonstrates that quantum-aided sensing techniques can realize large enough enhancements to have a substantial impact on precision measurements and may aid advances in technology as well as searches for new physics.

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