Atomic systems can be very sensitive to magnetic fields and rotation. In some descriptions of physics beyond the standard model, they are also sensitive to interactions with dark matter.
The sensitivity to these effects all comes down to atomic spin. Magnetic fields, rotations and perhaps dark matter, all change the direction of atomic spin. Measurements of the spin thus allow detection of whatever effect causing the change in spin orientation. This multi-sensing capability is great, but what if you can’t distinguish between them?
Our work has two main aims. One is to develop a new generation of atomic gyroscopes. We have developed a method that allows us to disentangle the influence of magnetic fields and rotation. Instead of being hampered by magnetic field noise, our atomic sensor could allow quantum-limited measurements of rotations and magnetic field simultaneously. This may allow atomic gyroscopes to compete with state-of-the-art optical systems.
The other aim is to contribute data to the Global Network of Optical Magnetometers to search for Exotic physics (GNOME). This collaboration maintains a network of ultra-sensitive atomic magnetometers that look for axionic dark matter. This is a part of a global effort to uncover the nature of dark matter, which appears to make up about 80% of the mass of the universe and has yet to be observed.
Work on this project will be a mixture of modelling and experimental testing of these novel techniques and there are opportunities for travel to other GNOME stations in the USA and Europe.
Atomic physics and optical physics will be very helpful.