Dynamics of Trapped Ions Near the Linear-Zigzag Structural Phase Transition

Date created: 
Ion trap, Linear-zigzag phase transition, Polarization-gradient cooling, Kibble-Zurek mechanism

Laser-cooled ions held in a linear Paul trap with strong transverse confinement organize into a one-dimensional (1-D) linear crystal. If the transverse confinement is relaxed, the linear ion crystal undergoes a continuous, structural phase transition to a 2-D zigzag configuration. We study the dynamics near the critical point of the linear-zigzag transition. In the first part of this thesis, we study the spontaneous nucleation and dynamics of topological kink defects, formed as a result of a rapid quench across the linear-zigzag transition. The experimental results are compared to the Kibble-Zurek mechanism, which provides an intuitive model of defect formation and predicts a power-law scaling for the number of defectsformed as a function of transition quench rate. The second part of this thesis is focused on one of the key requirements for investigations of the near-transition dynamics in the quantum regime. To achieve an efficient ground state cooling of the zigzag vibrational mode, we demonstrate 3-D polarization-gradient cooling of strings of 1-4 trapped ions as an intermediate step between Doppler and sideband cooling, and study the polarization-gradient cooling rate and cooling limit as a function of the cooling beam intensity in and near the Lamb-Dicke regime. The results of this thesis pave the way towards our future experiments aimed at assessing the coherence time of a zigzag superposition state through measurements of tunneling oscillations.

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This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
Senior supervisor: 
Paul C. Haljan
Science: Department of Physics
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.