Atom interferometry for tests of general relativity

verfasst von
Sina Leon Loriani Fard
betreut von
Ernst Maria Rasel

The search for a fundamental, self-consistent theoretical framework to cover phenomena over all energy scales is possibly the most challenging quest of contemporary physics. Approaches to reconcile quantum mechanics and general relativity entail the modification of their foundations such as the equivalence principle. This corner stone of general relativity is suspected to be violated in various scenarios and is therefore under close scrutiny. Experiments based on the manipulation of cold atoms are excellently suited to challenge its different facets. Freely falling atoms constitute ideal test masses for tests of the universality of free fall in interferometric setups. Moreover, the superposition of internal energy eigenstates provides the notion of a clock, which allows to perform tests of the gravitational redshift. Furthermore, as atom interferometers constitute outstanding phasemeters, they hold the promise to detect gravitational waves, another integral aspect of general relativity. In recent years, atom interferometers have developed into versatile sensors with excellent accuracy and stability, and allow to probe physics at the interface of quantum mechanics and general relativity without classical analog. In this thesis, various aspects regarding tests of general relativity with atom interferometry have been theoretically investigated. This includes the analysis of fundamental effects as well as feasibility studies of experimental configurations. The work is partially focussed on a space-borne mission scenario for a dedicated quantum test of the universality of free fall beyond state-of-the-art by dropping matter waves of different elements. To enable the target accuracy at the level of 10^(−17), a compensation scheme has been developed and discussed, mitigating the detrimental effects of imperfect test mass co-location upon release and relaxing the requirements on the source preparation by several orders of magnitude. In addition, it was demonstrated that the careful design of quantum degenerate sources is indispensable for these experiments, requiring tailored schemes to prepare miscible binary sources. The possibility to test the gravitational redshift with atom interferometers has also been examined in this thesis and connected to the ideas of clock interferometry. With the proof that closed light pulse atom interferometers without transitions between internal internal states are not sensitive to gravitational time dilation, an ongoing scientific debate has been resolved. Instead, certain configurations were shown to implement a quantum version of the special-relativistic twin paradox, for which an experiment has been proposed. Finally, requirements on atomic sources and atom optics for scenarios of gravitational wave detection on ground and in space have been investigated.

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