This thesis reports on a novel concept of state-dependent transport, which achieves an unprecedented control over the position of individual atoms in optical lattices. Utilizing this control I demonstrate an experimental violation of the Leggett Garg inequality, which rigorously excludes (i.e. falsifies) any explanation of quantum transport based on classical, well-defined trajectories. Furthermore, I demonstrate the generation of arbitrary low-entropy states of neutral atoms following a bottom-up approach by rearranging a dilute thermal ensemble into a predefined, ordered distribution in a one-dimensional optical lattice. Additionally, I probe two-particle quantum interference effects of two atom trajectories by realizing a microwave Hong-Ou-Mandel interferometer with massive particles, which are cooled into the vibrational ground state.
The first part of this thesis reports on several new experimental tools and techniques: three-dimensional ground state cooling of single atoms, which are trapped in the combined potential of a polarization-synthesized optical lattice and a blue-detuned hollow dipole potential; A high-NA (0.92) objective lens achieving a diffraction limited resolution of 460 nm; and an improved super-resolution algorithm, which resolves the position of individual atoms in small clusters at high filling factors, even when each lattice site is occupied.
The next part is devoted to the conceptually new optical-lattice technique that relies on a high-precision, high-bandwidth synthesis of light polarization. Polarization-synthesized optical lattices provide two fully controllable optical lattice potentials, each of them confining only atoms in either one of the two long-lived hyperfine states. By employing one lattice as the storage register and the other one as the shift register, I provide a proof of concept that selected regions of the periodic potential can be filled with one particle per site.
In the following part I report on a stringent test of the non-classicality of the motion of a massive quantum particle, which propagates on a discrete lattice. Measuring temporal correlations of the position of single atoms performing a quantum walk, we observe a 6 σ (standard deviation) violation of the Leggett-Garg inequality. The experiment is carried out using so-called ideal negative measurements – an essential requisite for any genuine Leggett-Garg test – which acquire information about the atom’s position while avoiding any direct interaction with it. This interaction-free measurement is based on our polarization-synthesized optical lattice, which allows us to directly probe the absence rather than the presence of atoms at a chosen lattice site. Beyond its fundamental aspect, I demonstrate the application of the Leggett-Garg correlation function as a witness of quantum superposition. The witness allows us to discriminate the quantumness of different types of walks spanning from merely classical to quantum dynamics and further to witness the decoherence of a quantum state.
In the last experimental part I will discuss recent results on collisional losses due to inelastic collisions occurring at high two-atom densities and demonstrate a Hong-Ou-Mandel interference with massive particles. Our precise control over individual indistinguishable particles embodies a direct analogue of the original Hong-Ou-Mandel experiment. By carrying out a Monte Carlo analysis of our experimental data, I demonstrate a signature of the two-particle interference of two-atom trajectories with a statistical significance of 4 σ.
In the final part I will introduce several new experiments which can be realized with the tools and techniques developed in this thesis, spanning from the detection of topologically protected edge states to the prospect of building a one-million-operation quantum cellular automaton.
Neutral atoms trapped in optical lattices are promising candidates for quantum information processing and quantum simulation. Over the last decades, elegant tools for the manipulation of the internal and external states of optically trapped atoms have been developed. The crucial capability of scalable internal state readout in these systems, however, still relies on destructive methods. In spite of the important role of near-resonant illumination for the manipulation and detection of atoms in the lattice, there also exists a significant lack of studies on the heating and cooling dynamics of optically trapped atoms interacting with near-resonant light. An in-depth understanding of the heating and cooling processes is essential to finding the conditions of illumination that enable the non-destructive internal state readout of multiple atoms.
This work presents an experimental system to cool, trap, manipulate, and detect the internal and external states of a small ensemble of ^{87}Rb neutral atoms trapped in a one-dimensional optical lattice. A high photon detection efficiency in our experimental system allows for fast fluorescence imaging with acquisition times of 20 ms and fast position determination of atoms in the optical lattice with an accuracy of ∼40 nm.
Using this experimental system, we investigate the heating dynamics of a neutral atom trapped in a standing wave dipole trap illuminated by a single near-resonant laser beam. A theoretical description to describe our measurements is provided in two experimentally relevant regimes. First, we consider the case of a weak near-resonant beam and later the case of off-resonant illumination. From this analysis, we find settings for the illumination light which allows an atom to scatter many photons before it is expelled from the trap.
Building on these results we demonstrate simultaneous, non-destructive determination of the internal state of spatially resolved atoms trapped in a one-dimensional optical lattice with a fidelity of 98.6 ± 0.2% and a survival probability of 99.0 ± 0.2%. During the readout process, less than 2% of the atoms change their initial ground state.
In order to determine the state of atoms that are not spatially resolved, a novel image analysis technique is presented. The technique uses Bayesian methods, which include the statistics of the detected photons as well as the response from the EMCCD camera. The Bayesian method is implemented on experimental data for atoms trapped in a one-dimensional optical lattice and its accuracy is tested by numerical simulations. In addition, an extension of this algorithm for atoms trapped in two-dimensional lattices is provided.
Finally, the non-destructive state detection method is utilized as a tool for the state determination following the coherent control of the internal and external states of atoms in the optical trap. Here Raman sideband cooling is implemented and utilized in an atomic compression sequence for the creation of a small and dense atomic ensemble. These techniques will play an important role in experiments studying the collective light interaction of the atomic ensemble in a recently added optical fiber cavity.
In this thesis, I present single-site detection of neutral atoms stored in a three-dimensional optical lattice using a numerical aperture objective lens (NA_{design} = 0.92). The combination of high-resolution imaging with state-dependent trapping along two-direction of the lattice opens up the path towards quantum simulations via quantum walks. Suppressing the interactions of a quantum system with the environment is essential for all quantum simulation experiments. It demands a precise control of both the external magnetic (stray) fields and the polarization properties of laser beams inside the vacuum chamber. I designed a metal shielding to reduce magnetic field fluctuations and designed, assembled and characterized a novel ultra-high vacuum glass cell. The glass cell consists of special glass material and exhibits an ultra-low birefringence Δn of a few times 10^{−8} to highly suppress polarization disturbances originating from stress birefringence in vacuum windows. Furthermore, anti-reflection coatings avoid reflections on all window surfaces. The cell hosts the assembled vacuum-compatible objective, that exhibits a diffraction limited resolution of up to 453 nm and allows to optically resolve the spacing of the optical lattice. Fluorescence images of single trapped atoms are used to characterize the imaging system. The filling, orientation and geometry of the optical lattice is precisely reconstructed using positions of atoms that can be determined from fluorescence images. Furthermore, I present a scheme to realize state-dependent transport and discuss its robustness against experimental imperfections in a technical implementation. This transport scheme enable the realization of discrete-time quantum walks with neutral atoms in two dimensions. These quantum walks pave the way towards the simulation of artificial magnetic fields and topologically protected edge states.