An Overview of Rydberg Atom-Based Sensors

One of the keys to developing new science and technologies is to have sound metrology tools (ie measurement tools) and techniques. A stated goal of international metrology organizations, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), is to make all measurements traceable to the International System of Units (SI). The world of measurement science is changing rapidly with the SI redefinition that occurred in 2018. As a result of the shift towards fundamental physical constants, the role of primary standards and measurements must change. Atom-based measurements allow for direct SI-traceable measurements, and as a result, measurement standards have evolved towards atom-based measurements over the last few decades; most notably length (m), frequency (Hz), and time (s) standards. Recently, there has been a great interest in extending this to magnetic and electric (E) field sensors. Fundamental to all electromagnetic/communication measurements is having accurately calibrated probes, antennas, and power meters in order to measure either electric (E) fields or power. In the past 10 years, we have made great progress in the development of a fundamentally new direct SI-traceable approach based on Rydberg atoms (traceable through Planck’s constant, which is now an SI defined constant). The Rydberg atom-based sensors now have the capability of measuring amplitude, polarization, and phase of the RF field. As such, various applications are beginning to emerge. These include SI-traceable E-field probes, power-sensors, voltage standards, receivers for communication signals (AM/FM modulated and digital phase modulation signals), and even the recording of musical instruments. In fact, this new atom-based technology has allowed for interesting and unforeseen applications. These new Rydberg atom-based sensors will be beneficial for 5G and beyond in that they will allow for the calibrations of both field strength and power for frequencies above 100GHz. In this talk, I will summarize this work and discuss various applications.