Spin-Damping in an Ultra-Sensitive Tunable RF Atomic Magnetometer




Alem, Orang

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Optically pumped radio frequency (RF) atomic magnetometers have been shown to have an improved sensitivity over standard tuned coils for frequencies less than 50 MHz, making these RF magnetometers attractive for the detection of nuclear quadrupole resonance (NQR) and low-field nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) signals. In an atomic magnetometer a linearly polarized probe beam measures, through Faraday rotation, the transverse atomic magnetization induced by the resonant RF signal. The resonance, or Larmor, frequency of the magnetometer is easily tuned with a small magnetic field. We construct an atomic magnetometer based on a potassium vapor cell with a measured sensitivity of 0.22 ± 0.02 fT/ √ Hz and a detection bandwidth of 334 ± 11 Hz when tuned to 423 kHz, giving a Q of over 1200. While high Q magnetometers are sensitive to weak magnetic fields, they are also sensitive to magnetic transients, such as those associated with the excitation pulses needed for magnetic resonance. The ringing created by such transients can obscure the signal of interest. This is particularly detrimental for magnetic resonance signals that decay faster than the transverse relaxation rate. We demonstrate that by feeding back part of the optical signal to orthogonal electromagnetic coils, this unwanted ringing can be quickly damped out leaving the magnetometer ready for the detection of the signal. This negative feedback as applied to the K spins is called spin-damping and can be used to relax the K atoms faster by more than two orders of magnitude. Using spin-damping we reduce the dead-time before data acquisition from 0.8 to 0.2 ms in the detection of NQR signals from ammonium nitrate, one of the so-called fertilizer bomb explosives with an NQR frequency of 423 kHz. Furthermore, we discover that spin-damping can not only be used to suppress signals, it can also be used to suppress noise. We show that it can be used to suppress both environmental noise and more fundamental quantum noise, such as photon shot and spin projection noise. The latter suppression opens the door for its use in quantum control to initialize spin systems before measurements. For phase-sensitive detection, as is often used in magnetic resonance, spin-damping suppresses signal and noise in such a way as to increase the sensitivity bandwidth of the magnetometer. We prove, both theoretically and experimentally, that it is possible to increase the magnetometer detection bandwidth by a factor of 3 or more without significant loss in sensitivity. Such gains in bandwidth for a high Q magnetometer translate into savings in detection time, particularly for substance detection where the frequency of the signal of interest may not be completely known.



Atomic Magnetometer, Potassium Vapor Cell, Spin-Damping, NQR Detection, Noise Suppression, Explosive Detection