skip to main content

SciTech ConnectSciTech Connect

Title: SISGR: Atom chip microscopy: A novel probe for strongly correlated materials

Microscopy techniques co-opted from nonlinear optics and high energy physics have complemented solid-state probes in elucidating the order manifest in condensed matter materials. Up until now, however, no attempts have been made to use modern techniques of ultracold atomic physics to directly explore properties of strongly correlated or topologically protected materials. Our current program is focused on introducing a novel magnetic field microscopy technique into the toolbox of imaging probes. Our prior DOE ESPM program funded the development of a novel instrument using a dilute gas Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) as a scanning probe capable of measuring tiny magnetic (and electric) DC and AC fields above materials. We successfully built the world's first “scanning cryogenic atom chip microscope” [1], and we now are in the process of characterizing its performance before using the instrument to take the first wide-area images of transport flow within unconventional superconductors, pnictides and oxide interfaces (LAO/STO), topological insulators, and colossal magnetoresistive manganites. We will do so at temperatures outside the capability of scanning SQUIDs, with ~10x better resolution and without 1/f-noise. A notable goal will be to measure the surface-to-bulk conductivity ratio in topological insulators in a relatively model-independent fashion [2]. We have completed the constructionmore » of this magnetic microscope, shown in Figure 1. The instrument uses atom chips—substrates supporting micron-sized current-carrying wires that create magnetic microtraps near surfaces for ultracold thermal gases and BECs—to enable single-shot and raster-scanned large-field-of-view detection of magnetic fields. The fields emanating from electronic transport may be detected at the 10-7 flux quantum (Φ0) level and below (see Fig. 2); that is, few to sub-micron resolution of sub-nanotesla fields over single-shot, millimeter-long detection lengths. By harnessing the extreme sensitivity of atomic clocks and BECs to external perturbations, we are now in a position to use atom chips for imaging transport in new regimes. Scanning quantum gas atom chip microscopy introduces three very important features to the toolbox of high-resolution scanning microscopy of strongly correlated or topological materials: simultaneous detection of magnetic and electric fields (down to the sub-single electron charge level [3,4]; no invasive large magnetic fields or gradients; simultaneous micro- and macroscopic spatial resolution; DC to MHz detection bandwidth; freedom from 1/f flicker noise at low frequencies; and, perhaps most importantly, the complete decoupling of probe and sample temperatures. The atom chip microscope can operate at maximum sensitivity and resolution without regard to the substrate temperature. While the BEC is among the coldest objects realizable (100 nK temperatures are typical), the atom chip substrate can be positioned 1 μm away from the BEC and be as hot as 400 K or as cold as the cryostat can cool. This is because unlike superconducting probes, whose temperature is closely coupled to nearby materials, quantum gases are immune to radiative heating. The energy gap between a Rb atom’s ground state and first excited state far exceeds the typical energy of room-temperature blackbody radiation; such atoms are therefore transparent to radiation heating by materials at room temperature or below. We experimentally demonstrated a new atom chip trapping system that allows the placement and high-resolution imaging of ultracold atoms within microns from any ≤100 μm-thin, UHV-compatible material, while also allowing sample exchange with minimal experimental downtime [1]. The sample is not connected to the atom chip, allowing rapid exchange without perturbing the atom chip or laser cooling apparatus. Exchange of the sample and retrapping of atoms has been performed within a week turnaround, limited only by chamber baking. Moreover, the decoupling of sample and atom chip provides the ability to independently tune the sample temperature and its position with respect to the trapped ultracold gas, which itself may remain in the focus of a high-resolution imaging system. See Fig. 3. We confine 100-nK BECs of 104 87Rb atoms near a gold-mirrored 100-μm-thick silicon substrate. The substrate can be cooled to 35 K without use of a heat shield, while the atom chip, 120-μm away, remains at room temperature. Atoms may be imaged with 1-μm resolution and retrapped every 16 s, allowing rapid data collection. Straightforward improvements will allow us to push sample temperatures close to 4 K, and improve imaging resolution from 1 μm down to a few-100 nm, thereby providing 10-9 Φ0 detection sensitivity. We will test the utility of this technique by imaging the magnetic fields emanating from electronic transport and domain percolation in several interesting examples of strongly correlated or topologically protected materials. STM, transport, and x-ray scattering experiments have, among others, revealed the existence of a quantum liquid crystal state in iron (pnictide) and cuprate superconductors. This strongly correlated state of matter could also be detected by imaging the fluctuating transport (spatially and in time) of electrons as the phase/regime boundary is crossed between the pnictide non-Fermi liquid (cuprate strange metal) and the pnictide magnetic phase (cuprate pseudogap regime). Our ability to image wide-area inhomogeneous current flow from room-temperature to <10 K will allow us to study the developing domain structure and transport near twin boundary interfaces through the TN~50-150 K nematic transition recently identified in bulk transport experiments by Ian Fisher's group in underdoped Fe-arsinide superconductors [6]. Again, this highlights a main feature of our cryogenic atom chip microscope: the ability to image transport regardless of the sample temperature since the BEC, at nK temperatures, is transparent to blackbody radiation, even when held a microns from the surface. References: 3) S. Aigner et al., Long-range order in electronic transport through disordered metal films, Science 319 319 (2008). 4) S. Wildermuth, et al. Sensing electric and magnetic fields with Bose-Einstein condensates, Appl. Phys. Lett. 88, 264103 (2006). 5) M. Lu, N. Q. Burdick, S.-H. Youn, and B. L. Lev, Strongly Dipolar Bose-Einstein Condensate of Dysprosium, PRL 107, 190401 (2011). 6) J.-H. Chu, J. Analytis, K. De Greve, P. Mcmahon, A. Islam, Y. Yamamoto, and I. Fisher, In-Plane Resistivity Anisotropy in an Underdoped Iron Arsenide Superconductor, Science 329, 824 (2010). Publications: 1) M. A. Naides, R. W. Turner, R. A. Lai, J. M. DiSciacca, and B. L. Lev, Trapping ultracold gases near cryogenic materials with rapid reconfigurability, Applied Physics Letters 103, 251112 (2013). 2) B. Dellabetta, T. L. Hughes, M. J. Gilbert, and B. L. Lev, Imaging topologically protected transport with quantum degenerate gases, Phys. Rev. B 85, 205442 (2012).« less
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE; USDOE Office of Science (SC), Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (SC-22)
Country of Publication:
United States
36 MATERIALS SCIENCE BEC; Scanning Probe Microscope; Atom Chip