Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jun Ye

Second Advisor

Ana Maria Rey

Third Advisor

Eric A. Cornell

Fourth Advisor

Deborah S. Jin

Fifth Advisor

Kevin H. Wagner


Neutral atom optical standards require the highest levels of laser precision to operate near the limit set by quantum fluctuations. We develop state-of-the-art ultra-stable laser systems to achieve a factor of 10 enhancement in clock measurement precision and additionally demonstrate optical linewidths below 50 mHz. The most stable of these lasers reaches its thermal noise floor of 1 × 10-16 fractional frequency instability, allowing the attainment of near quantum-noise-limited clock operation with single-clock instabilities of 3×10-16 at 1 s. We utilize this high level of spectral resolution to operate a 87Sr optical lattice clock in a regime in which quantum collisions play a dominant role in the dynamics, enabling the study of quantum many-body physics. With a fractional level of precision of near 1 × 10-16 at 1 s, we clearly resolve the signatures of many-body interactions. We find that the complicated interplay between the p wave-dominated elastic and inelastic interaction processes between lattice-trapped atoms leads to severe lineshape distortion, shifts, and loss of Ramsey fringe contrast. We additionally explore the theoretical prediction that these many-body interactions will modify the quantum fluctuations of the system and we find that in certain parameter regimes the quantum noise distribution exhibits a quadrature dependence. We further present technological advancements that will permit ultra-stable lasers to operate with reduced thermal noise, leading to a potential gain of an additional factor of 10 in stability. This indicates that laser fractional frequency instabilities of 1 × 10-17 are within experimental reach, as is a fully-quantum-limited regime of optical clock operation.