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PlusOne Report Summary

Project ID: 639242
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PlusOne (An ultracold gas plus one ion: advancing Quantum Simulations of in- and out-of-equilibrium many-body physics)

Reporting period: 2015-05-01 to 2016-10-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Ultracold atoms and trapped ions are among the most powerful tools to study quantum physics. On the one hand, ultracold atoms provide an exceptional resource for studying many-body physics, since a relatively large number of particles, typically from a few tens of thousands to several million, can be brought to quantum degeneracy. Quantum gases have been used extensively in recent years to realize quantum simulations of fundamental models of condensed matter, the solutions of which are often too complex to be computed. On the other hand, trapped ions provide a great resource to explore the physics of small quantum systems. They provide one of the most successful hardwares for a quantum computer, and clocks made of trapped ions are among the most precise. Moreover, trapped ions have been recently used as a quantum simulator, making the path of the two subjects of ultracold atoms and trapped ions even more entangled.
Only recently, though, ultracold atoms and trapped ions have been brought together in a single experimental setup. The progress in this new research field has been extremely fast, and now several groups in the world have built or are currently building experimental setups in which different pairs of atoms and ions are used together. The reason for this interest is based on the several innovative ingredients that are available – many more than in traditional atomic physics experiments. At the fundamental level, atoms and ions interact through a potential that is much more long-ranged with respect to the interaction between ultracold atoms (scaling with R^-4 instead of R^-6, where R is the internuclear separation), and one can exploit the different techniques to manipulate atoms and ions to exert more control on the hybrid system. With this control at hand, atom-ion quantum systems have been proposed to advance quantum simulation, quantum computation, and quantum chemistry. These subjects are part of the quantum technologies that promise to change the world in the next decades by creating new powerful computers and solving fundamental problems of physics like high temperature superconductivity.
In our project, we plan to realize a new generation atom-ion machine in order to realize new quantum simulations of a many-body system in the presence of one or more localized impurities. With this setup, we plan to investigate fundamental atom-ion interactions in the ultracold regime, and to use these controlled interactions to realize a platform for investigating out-of-equilibrium quantum systems and quantum thermodynamics. An hybrid quantum system of atoms and ions interacting in a - so far unexplored - full quantum regime will realize a brand new quantum system with the possibility of tuning most of the parameters of the system, so that this can be used to study existing problems and new problems of physics from a completely novel standpoint.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The first 18 months of the project have been devoted to constructing the experimental apparatus. This apparatus, which is still under construction, is composed of a large number of sources of light (lasers), a vacuum chamber in which ultra-high vacuum is created, electrodes and coils realizing electric and magnetic fields used to trap and manipulate ions and atoms, respectively, and a large number of electronic equipment. The electronic equipment is used to control the experimental procedure: a computer will eventually control the different variables of the experiment, like the frequency of a laser, the illumination of the atomic sample by a specific light, or the value of the electric and magnetic fields acting on the ions and the atoms. This control has to be extremely precise in time (with an accuracy of 10 microsecond or better) in order to ensure a precise reproducibility of the experiments.
The process of constructing this very complicated experimental setup has to pass first through a stage of careful design of the different parts constituting the apparatus. Once the different parts have been identified (either in the market, or designed for producing prototypes in the lab), they are ordered and then assembled in the laboratory. At the moment, the design part of the experiment is almost concluded, and most of the efforts are now devoted to physically assembling the different parts. The first part of the experimental setup that will be constructed is the laser system, which will be made of hundreds of optical elements like lasers, lenses, polarizers, optical fibers, ecc. Currently, we are engaged in this construction, as well in the construction of the electronic system. Once these parts are completed, the vacuum system will be assembled, and the atom-ion hybrid system will be realized.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

In order to realize the experimental apparatus, a number of parts have been designed specifically for the experiment by the members of the research team. Some of these parts, like an objective that will be used for imaging the atoms and the ions, are important for the experiment, but will not most likely have any economic impact. However, other parts designed for the experiment could have a more general economic impact. For instance, we have realized two independent and novel designs for laser cavities. These cavities, which make use of a laser diode, a lens, a piezo-electric element, and a diffraction grating, are at the moment showing extremely good characteristics like, for instance, the possibility of tuning a laser in a quite large range (larger than 100GHz) without mode hope. Some more detailed tests are currently under way and, in case of positive output, we will most likely patent this novel design. Other elements of novelty with respect to the state of the art are the ion trap design and the imaging system. Overall, we expect that with this new experimental apparatus we will be able to solve a number of experimental problems that are currently preventing atom-ion physics from entering a full quantum regime.
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