Coherent Stern-Gerlach momentum splitting on an atom chip

Nat Commun. 2013;4:2424. doi: 10.1038/ncomms3424.


In the Stern-Gerlach effect, a magnetic field gradient splits particles into spatially separated paths according to their spin projection. The idea of exploiting this effect for creating coherent momentum superpositions for matter-wave interferometry appeared shortly after its discovery, almost a century ago, but was judged to be far beyond practical reach. Here we demonstrate a viable version of this idea. Our scheme uses pulsed magnetic field gradients, generated by currents in an atom chip wire, and radio-frequency Rabi transitions between Zeeman sublevels. We transform an atomic Bose-Einstein condensate into a superposition of spatially separated propagating wavepackets and observe spatial interference fringes with a measurable phase repeatability. The method is versatile in its range of momentum transfer and the different available splitting geometries. These features make our method a good candidate for supporting a variety of future applications and fundamental studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't