UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing researcher creates fifth state of matter in living room

Dr Amruta Gadge at home
Dr Amruta Gadge working while at home

A researcher from the UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing, which is led by the University of Birmingham, has created the fifth state of matter working from home using quantum technology.

Dr Amruta Gadge, Research Fellow in Quantum Physics and Technologies at the University of Sussex, which is one of the universities partnered with the Hub, successfully created a Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC) at Sussex’s facilities despite working remotely from her living room two miles away.

It is believed to be the first time that BEC has been created remotely in a lab that did not have one before.

The research team believe the achievement could provide a blueprint for operating quantum technology in inaccessible environments such as space.

A BEC consists of a cloud of hundreds of thousands of rubidium atoms cooled down to nanokelvin temperatures, which is more than a billion times colder than freezing.  At this point the atoms take on a different property and behave all together as a single quantum object. This quantum object has special properties which can sense very low magnetic fields.

Dr Gadge was able to make complex calculations, optimise, and run the sequence from her home by accessing the lab computers remotely. Just prior to lockdown, researchers set-up a 2D magnetic optical trap and have returned only a couple of times to carry out essential maintenance.

She said: “The research team has been observing lockdown and working from home and so we have not been able to access our labs for weeks.  But we were determined to keep our research going so we have been exploring new ways of running our experiments remotely. It has been a massive team effort.”

Dr Amruta Gadge

Dr Amruta Gadge while working in the lab.

Peter Krüger, Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Sussex, said: “We believe this may be the first time that someone has established a BEC remotely in a lab that didn’t have one before. We are all extremely excited that we can continue to conduct our experiments remotely during lockdown, and any possible future lockdowns.

"But there are also wider implications beyond our team. Enhancing the capabilities of remote lab control is relevant for research applications aimed at operating quantum technology in inaccessible environments such as space, underground, in a submarine, or in extreme climates.” 

The Quantum Systems and Devices Group have been working on having a second lab with a BEC running consistently over the past nine months as part of a wider project developing a new type of magnetic microscopy and other quantum sensors. 

The research team uses atomic gases as magnetic sensors close to various objects including novel advanced materials, ion channels in cells, and the human brain. Trapped cold quantum gases are controlled to create extremely accurate and precise sensors that are ideal for detecting and studying new materials, geometries and devices.The research team are developing their sensors to be applied in many areas including electrical vehicle batteries, touch screens, solar cells and medical advancements such as brain imaging.

The team involved in reaching this goal are Professor Peter Krüger, Dr Fedja Orucevic, Dr Amruta Gadge, Dr Julia Fekete, Scott Sleegers, Shobita Bhumbra, Dr William Evans, Robert Shah and Dr Thomas Barrett.

The UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing, led by the University of Birmingham, is a partnership including the Universities of Sussex, Imperial, Glasgow, Strathclyde, Southampton, Nottingham, NPL and the British Geological Survey.