New interferometry technique more powerful and cost-effective
A new neutron interferometry technique developed by researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) will allow for faster and more precise measurements, and could pave the way for advances in imaging, materials science and quantum research.
The technique uses parts that can be built in any nanofabrication lab and eliminates the need for expensive custom apparatuses produced at specialized facilities. The new apparatus can be easily set up at any neutron source in the world.
“We’ve developed a tool that is more powerful, easier and affordable to build,” said Dusan Sarenac, author on the paper and a PhD candidate in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo. “This do-it-yourself set up provides better, more precise results and makes one of the most sensitive measurement techniques accessible for researchers around the world.”
One of the best alternatives—perfect crystal interferometry—requires apparatuses that can take years to build and optimize. There are currently only two locations in the world that have access to a working perfect crystal interferometry setup, one is the NIST setup at Maryland and the other is at Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) in Grenoble France.
The new apparatus is also less sensitive to vibration and temperature variances than other types of interferometers, making it more robust and practical for use.
Interferometry is a measurement technique most commonly used for imaging and the precise characterization of materials. Unlike transmission imaging, which relies on an object absorbing particles, interferometry measures the phase change of particles that pass through an object.
“The new technique uses the whole neutron beam, resulting in faster, non-invasive measurements,” said Sarenac. “This will allow us to perform a precise measurement of the Newtonian constant of gravitation, which is highly sought by the scientific community.”
The project was conducted at the NIST Center for Neutron Research; and was supported by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF).
The study is published in Physical Review Letters.