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Robust All-Optical Atomic Magnetometer

IB-2353

APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:

  • Detection of
    • submarines and unexploded ordnance, e.g., land or sea mines
    • underground features, e.g., tunnels, underground pipes, and drums containing hazardous waste
    • planetary and solar magnetic fields
  • Vehicular traffic monitoring
  • Portable magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the heart or brain
  • Geological surveys, e.g., oil and mineral prospecting
  • Design of more accurate and power efficient magnetometers and gradiometers
  • Advanced instrumentation for fundamental physics and nuclear research

ADVANTAGES:

  • Compact, lightweight design
  • User friendly set up with simple start up procedure
  • Low power usage
  • More accurate measurements of magnetic fields

ABSTRACT:

Berkeley Lab researchers have designed a novel all-optical, self oscillating, optically pumped atomic magnetometer that has a unique combination of sensitivity, robustness, and immunity to systematic errors. Unlike conventional optical atomic magnetometers, the sending element (or the sensor head) of the Berkeley Lab invention does not use electronics or RF coils; instead, it uses an optical phase shifter that allows it to self oscillate or self adjust to read the magnetic field. Additionally, the invention’s low power requirements and streamlined setup make it ideal for applications requiring portability.

The novel all-optical magnetometer can be used in a variety of detection applications (unexploded land or sea mines, buried drums of hazardous waste, traffic monitoring), and it may be used in portable nuclear magnetic resonance imaging of the heart and brain. It also promises to advance the current state of the art by making it possible to produce low cost, ultra sensitive, lightweight, and power efficient magnetometers and magnetic gradiometers (systems consisting of two gradiometers).

Conventional optical atomic magnetometers employ alkali-metal vapors and optical pumping, a process that uses polarized light to align the vapor’s atoms. This process is necessary for characterizing how the atoms precess (spin about an axis) under the influence of the magnetic field being measured. The performance of these magnetometers, however, is compromised by their use of radio frequency (RF) coils and an electronic phase shifter to process a magnetic signal, which makes it difficult to accurately measure the magnetic field. Thus, the Berkeley Lab invention represents a significant improvement.

STATUS:

Publishd PCT Patent Application WO2009/073256 available at www.wipo.int. Available for licensing or collaborative research.

To learn more about licensing a technology from LBNL see http://www.lbl.gov/Tech-Transfer/licensing/index.html.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Higbie, J.M., E. Corsini, and D. Budker, “Robust, high-speed, all-optical atomic magnetometer,” Review of Scientific Instruments 77 (11), 113106 (2006).

REFERENCE NUMBER: IB-2353

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