Fundamental limitations of cavity-assisted atom interferometry

M. Dovale-Álvarez, D. D. Brown, A. W. Jones, C. M. Mow-Lowry, H. Miao, A. Freise

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Atom interferometers employing optical cavities to enhance the beam splitter pulses promise significant advances in science and technology, notably for future gravitational wave detectors. Long cavities, on the scale of hundreds of meters, have been proposed in experiments aiming to observe gravitational waves with frequencies below 1 Hz, where laser interferometers, such as LIGO, have poor sensitivity. Alternatively, short cavities have also been proposed for enhancing the sensitivity of more portable atom interferometers. We explore the fundamental limitations of two-mirror cavities for atomic beam splitting, and establish upper bounds on the temperature of the atomic ensemble as a function of cavity length and three design parameters: the cavity g factor, the bandwidth, and the optical suppression factor of the first and second order spatial modes. A lower bound to the cavity bandwidth is found which avoids elongation of the interaction time and maximizes power enhancement. An upper limit to cavity length is found for symmetric two-mirror cavities, restricting the practicality of long baseline detectors. For shorter cavities, an upper limit on the beam size was derived from the geometrical stability of the cavity. These findings aim to aid the design of current and future cavity-assisted atom interferometers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number053820
JournalPhysical Review A
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


This work was realized with the financial support of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and the UK National Quantum Technology Hub in Sensors and Metrology with EPSRC Grant No. EP/M013294/1. D.D.B. acknowledges support from the European Commission Horizon 2020 programme under the Q-Sense Project No. 691156 (Q-Sense-H2020-MSCA-RISE-2015). C.M.M.L. acknowledges support from the European Commission Horizon 2020 programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant No. 701264. H.M. is supported by the Ernest Rutherford Fellowship with STFC Grant No. ST/M005844/11. A.F. is supported by the STFC with Grant No. ST/N000633/1. M.D.A. would like to thank Nicolas Mielec for helpful discussions about the atom-optics model and Javier Álvarez-Vizoso for many useful discussions during the writing of this paper.

FundersFunder number
European Commission Horizon 2020 programmeQ-Sense-H2020-MSCA-RISE-2015
National Quantum Technology Hub
Defence Science and Technology Laboratory
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme691156, 701264
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research CouncilEP/M013294/1
Science and Technology Facilities CouncilST/M005844/11, ST/N000633/1


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