Research ArticlePHYSICS

Symmetry-breaking inelastic wave-mixing atomic magnetometry

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Science Advances  01 Dec 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 12, e1700422
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700422

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Abstract

The nonlinear magneto-optical rotation (NMOR) effect has prolific applications ranging from precision mapping of Earth’s magnetic field to biomagnetic sensing. Studies on collisional spin relaxation effects have led to ultrahigh magnetic field sensitivities using a single-beam Λ scheme with state-of-the-art magnetic shielding/compensation techniques. However, the NMOR effect in this widely used single-beam Λ scheme is peculiarly small, requiring complex radio-frequency phase-locking protocols. We show the presence of a previously unknown energy symmetry–based nonlinear propagation blockade and demonstrate an optical inelastic wave-mixing NMOR technique that breaks this NMOR blockade, resulting in an NMOR optical signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) enhancement of more than two orders of magnitude never before seen with the single-beam Λ scheme. The large SNR enhancement was achieved simultaneously with a nearly two orders of magnitude reduction in laser power while preserving the magnetic resonance linewidth. This new method may open a myriad of applications ranging from biomagnetic imaging to precision measurement of the magnetic properties of subatomic particles.

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