Atom laser-cooling and atom manipulation

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The late 80’s saw the ground-breaking discovery of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light. Steven Chu, Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and William D. Phillips were jointly awarded the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for the developments of these methods. This new area of Physics lead to a large variety of advancements both in academic laboratories, startups and in the industry, including iXblue’s very own Quantum Sensors division (ex-MuQuans).

Atom laser-cooling refers to the ability to slow and trap individual neutral atoms with laser beams. When carefully adjusting the frequency, the polarization and the power of counter-propagating laser beams, it is possible to get photons have a mechanical effect on the atoms of a gas. The atoms experience a mechanical recoil and after a few 100’s a ms, about 107 atoms get trapped within 1 mm3. This process provides a small isolated and ideal sample of matter, produced on demand, that can then be used for Quantum Sensing or Quantum Computing. 

Devices and experimental set-ups based on cold-atoms

Recently, the laser-cooling and laser manipulation of Rubidium-87 atoms have reached an outstanding level of maturity and reliability. Former French SME Muquans – now part of iXblue – has demonstrated over the last years the maturity of its Quantum Sensors based on cold-atoms for applications outside of the lab. They are now deployed in the field all around the world from Antartica to the top of Mount Etna, demonstrating that the TRL is now at 9 for ground use.

As seen on the schematics below, any cold-atom set-up involves two main systems :

  • An ultra-high vacuum system at room temperature that hosts the atoms
  • A laser system that provides the optical beams required to manipulate the atoms

iXblue Intelligent Laser System (ILS)

iMOB Series

Integrated micro-optics benches (iMOB) can turn your photonic lab experiment into a compact and robust system.

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ILS series – Intelligent Laser Systems

Turn-key frequency-stabilized laser systems

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Quantum gravimeter

The Absolute Quantum Gravimeter (AQG) is the first commercially available gravimeter based on Quantum Technologies and exploits the principle of atom interferometry with laser-cooled atoms.

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iXblue’s LAZ-LAB-NL-1560 is a narrow linewidth single frequency fiber laser based on UV Bragg grating technology applied to active rare-earth photosensitive fibers.

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LiNbO3 Amplitude Modulator

iXblue offers the most comprehensive range of commercial LiNbO3 electro-optic modulators, including C-Band and 800 nm & 950 nm bands Amplitude LiNbO3 modulators.

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Phase modulators

iXblue offers the most comprehensive range of commercial LiNbO3 electro-optic modulators, including C-Band and 800 nm & 950 nm bands Phase LiNbO3 modulators.

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Polarizing Fibers

iXblue Polarizing (PZ) fiber is designed so that only one state of polarization is guided along the fiber; any other state of polarization will be lost rapidly thus yielding a high built-in polarization extinction ratio.

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Intelligent Laser System (ILS laser Series)

One of the main reasons that makes today laser-cooling of Rubidium atoms so straightforward lies in the ability to rely on fully integrated turn-key the laser system emitting at 780 nm, namely the ILS laser Series. After several years of R&D and customer experience, iXblue has tremendously improved their performances while remarkably decreasing their Size Weight, Power and Costs requirements.

Master Laser

A first laser – called master laser – is used to provide a fixed well-known frequency reference. One or several additional laser – called slave lasers – are then phase locked to the master laser.

Ultra low-noise electronics

Atom cooling and atom manipulation require stringent optical specifications, that can only be obtained by using ultra low-noise electronics. iXblue has gathered a deep expertise in this domain and developed its own drivers.

State of the art optical performance

The control of the optical frequencies at 780 nm in terms of accuracy, agility and stability is enabled by a Radio-Frequency synthesis chain.


Phase-lock providing agile and accurate frequency shifts

Easy-to-use, flexible and reliable laser system

A cold-atom set-up involves the control of hundreds of analog and digital signals to drive the various components, collect the experimental data and make sure that everything is running well. iXblue’s laser system onboards a local computer allowing real-time collection and processing of analog and digital signals. This ensures an automated turn-key operation of the laser systems, and provide a pleasant user experience to the end user.

Picture of the AQG in front of the craters prior to its installation in the Pizzi Deneri observatory (© iXblue)
The world’s first detection of gravity changes induced by volcanic processes was performed on top of Mount Etna, with a iXblue’s quantum gravimeter operated by the ILS

This outstanding achievement is a clear demonstration of the maturity of cold-atom technologies. Read more about it.

Integrated Micro-Optics Benches (iMOB Series)

Before sending the laser beams to the vacuum chamber, it is necessary to combine and splitt the outputs of the laser system to reach all of the optical viewports of the vacuum system. The iMOB series provided by iXblue provides such optial dispatch capability and can adapt to any configuration.

The iMOB780 are fibered optical benches exploiting micro-optics technologies to integrate optical functions such as power splitting, combining, optical switching, frequency shifters, within a compact and ultra-stable package. Usual free-space optics set-ups are now turned into turn-key maintenance-free fibered sub-systems. They feature remarkable stability and have a high optical power level capability to several watts.

iXblue ground-breaking approach to design, develop and integrate optical setups with industry-grade optical building blocks. Starting from customer’s specifications (simple drawing or detailed specifications), iXblue develops industrial optical products dedicated to be used as EOM’s subsystems. iXblue expertise lies on the ultra-accurate assembly of optical elements on glass breadboards, using 6D positioning.


iXblue Porfolio for Quantum Technologies

Cold atoms have become a reliable and flexible platform to implement a wide variety of Technologies (Sensing, Communication, Computing), and to investigate and simulate a large variety of Quantum Phenomena. With its portfolio going from the fully integrated and intelligent laser systems down to the components which are:

iXblue is able to provide Photonics solutions to labs, agencies or companies active in Quantum Technologies (see the Related Products). The laser systems and Photonics solutions provided by iXblue are now a reference to support laboratory experiments, prototyping, product developments and OEM industrial productions.


  • Gravity measurements below 10−9 g with a transportable absolute quantum gravimeter

    V. Ménoret, Pierre Vermeulen, Nicolas Le Moigne, Sylvain Bonvalot, Philippe Bouyer, Arnaud Landragin, Bruno Desruelle, « Gravity measurements below 10−9 g with a transportable absolute quantum gravimeter

    Nature Scientific Report, 8:12300 (2018)

    Gravimetry is a well-established technique for the determination of sub-surface mass distribution needed in several fields of geoscience, and various types of gravimeters have been developed over the last 50 years. Among them, quantum gravimeters based on atom interferometry have shown toplevel performance in terms of sensitivity, long-term stability and accuracy.

  • Compact differential gravimeter at the quantum projection-noise limit

    Camille Janvier, Vincent Ménoret, Bruno Desruelle, Sébastien Merlet, Arnaud Landragin, and Franck Pereira dos Santos

    Phys. Rev. A 105, 022801 – Published 7 February 2022
  • A fibered laser system for the MIGA large scale atom interferometer

    1. D. O. Sabulsky et al.

    Nature Scientific Report, 10:3268 (2020)

    We describe the realization and characterization of a compact, autonomous fber laser system that produces the optical frequencies required for laser cooling, trapping, manipulation, and detection of 87Rb atoms – a typical atomic species for emerging quantum technologies



ILS Series datasheet

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iMOB Series datasheet

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