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Atom matterwave interferometry and inertial measurement

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Our experimental and theoretical research addresses atom interferometry, from fundamental aspects to its use for inertial sensing and applications as a quantum technology for navigation.

Atom interferometers schematically resemble their optical counterparts, but the atom’s de Broglie matterwave replaces the lightwave of the optical interferometer, and temporally-shaped laser beams play the roles of mirrors and beamsplitters. Using atoms at microkelvin temperatures, matterwave interferometers can surpass the sensitivity of even the best optical devices, and are able to sense a wider range of properties since, unlike photons, atoms have mass and can carry charge and magnetic moments.

Having previously explored the use of atom interferometry for velocimetry and ultracold cooling, we are now building atom interferometric inertial sensors for applications beyond the laboratory. We are focusing on two systems: 1) a rotation sensor for prototype navigation applications, and 2) a novel long-baseline gravity gradiometer for underground sensing and mapping. At the same time, for future generations of atom interferometric sensors, we are using optimal control theory to design new mirror and beamsplitter pulses; and we are able to test and validate our new designs with further experimental studies. We wish also to calculate the navigational performance of atom interferometric sensors, and develop integrated and miniaturised component technologies. The PhD can be in any of these areas or a combination of them.

For informal enquiries, contact Dr Tim Freegarde, telephone +44 (0)23 8059 2347, , or Dr Matt Himsworth, +44 (0)23 8059 9343, – or visit and

Funding Notes

The studentship is offered in connection with the Quantum Technology Hub for Sensors and Metrology, Southampton’s Spin Dynamics group and the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Next Generation Computational Modelling, Thales R&T UK and DSTL, and may involve extended visits to our French collaborators at the Laboratoire Photonique, Numérique et Nanosciences. A bursary will provide an annual stipend (currently around £14,800), together with tuition fees for UK/EU students. Applicants should have, or be about to obtain, a first or upper-second class degree in Physics or a closely-related discipline.


A Dunning et al., Composite pulses for interferometry in a thermal cold atom cloud, Phys Rev A 90, 033608 (2014)
J Rushton et al., The feasibility of a fully miniaturized magneto-optical trap for portable ultracold quantum technology, Rev Sci Instrum 85, 121501 (2014)
A Dunning et al., Interferometric laser cooling of atomic rubidium, Phys. Rev. Lett. 115, 073004 (2015)
M Carey et al., Matterwave interferometric velocimetry of cold Rb atoms, J Mod Opt 65 (5-6), 657-666 (2018)
J Saywell et al., Optimal control of mirror pulses for cold-atom interferometry, Phys Rev A 98 023625 (2018)
M Carey et al., Velocimetry of cold atoms by matterwave interferometry,, Phys Rev A, accepted for publication

How good is research at University of Southampton in Physics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.80

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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