An all-optical scalar and vector spin-exchange relaxation-free magnetometer employing on-off pump modulation

Alexander Gusarov, David Levron, Andrei Ben Amar Baranga, Eugene Paperno, Reuben Shuker

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20 Scopus citations


It is demonstrated that a spin-exchange relaxation-free (SERF) atomic magnetometer can be used for scalar measurements with no additional hardware. Because of relaxation processes, an ensemble of alkali atoms needs a constant supply of polarized photons by a pump beam to maintain a polarized state. If the pump beam is shuttered off, the system decays to its equilibrium state. For a low enough relaxation rate and with a magnetic field present, the system will exhibit oscillations at its natural frequencies. In a SERF magnetometer, it happens at the Zeeman resonance frequency of the atoms (Larmor frequency). Thus, shuttering off the pump beam reveals oscillations at the Larmor frequency. From this frequency, one can deduce the scalar value of the applied magnetic field. As a result, all-optical scalar measurements can be performed. At the same time, either one or two vector components of the applied field can be measured by using one or two orthogonal probe beams, respectively. In a low-polarization SERF regime, the ground state can be well described by the Bloch equations for the electron spin polarization. By solving the time-dependent Bloch equations [neglecting the diffusion term and assuming that the nuclear slowing-down factor q(P) is constant], the oscillation frequency of the system is obtained. From this frequency, the scalar value of the applied magnetic field is derived. It is shown that applied fields down to 1 nT can be measured with a 0.1 relative uncertainty. Fields down to 50 pT can be measured with a 10 relative uncertainty. The time dependence acquired in the off periods is strongly correlated with the Zeeman sublevels population of the atomic ground state and reveals its spin dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number07E507
JournalJournal of Applied Physics
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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