13 May 2014 Interfacing cold atoms and nanophotonics

Coupling atoms to an integrated photonic crystal circuit in Nature Communications. ICFO Professor and Nest Fellow Darrick Chang, in collaboration with researchers from Caltech, has co-authored a paper in Nature Communications which demonstrates for the first time a photonic crystal device simultaneously capable of trapping and strongly coupling to cold atoms.

The integration of nanophotonics and atomic physics has been a long-sought goal that would open new frontiers, including the investigation of novel quantum transport and many-body phenomena with photon-mediated atomic interactions. Reaching this goal requires surmounting diverse challenges in nanofabrication and atomic manipulation. This study reports the development of a novel integrated optical circuit with a photonic crystal waveguide capable of both localizing and interfacing atoms with guided photons. From measured reflection and transmission spectra through the device, the researchers were able to infer that a single atom localized within the waveguide by optical dipole forces can act as a mirror that reflects and attenuates resonant light by 6% and 40%, respectively. These numbers are unprecedented in all current atom–photon interfaces.