A quantum scattering interferometer

Russell A. Hart, Xinye Xu, Ronald Legere, Kurt Gibble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The collision of two ultracold atoms results in a quantum mechanical superposition of the two possible outcomes: each atom continues without scattering, and each atom scatters as an outgoing spherical wave with an s-wave phase shift. The magnitude of the s-wave phase shift depends very sensitively on the interaction between the atoms. Quantum scattering and the underlying phase shifts are vitally important in many areas of contemporary atomic physics, including Bose-Einstein condensates, degenerate Fermi gases, frequency shifts in atomic clocks and magnetically tuned Feshbach resonances. Precise experimental measurements of quantum scattering phase shifts have not been possible because the number of scattered atoms depends on the s-wave phase shifts as well as the atomic density, which cannot be measured precisely. Here we demonstrate a scattering experiment in which the quantum scattering phase shifts of individual atoms are detected using a novel atom interferometer. By performing an atomic clock measurement using only the scattered part of each atom's wavefunction, we precisely measure the difference of the s-wave phase shifts for the two clock states in a density-independent manner. Our method will enable direct and precise measurements of ultracold atom-atom interactions, and may be used to place stringent limits on the time variations of fundamental constants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)892-895
Number of pages4
Issue number7138
StatePublished - Apr 19 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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