Dr Tiffany Harte
We use a combination of lasers and magnetic fields to cool atoms down to temperatures of just hundreds of nano-Kelvin - about 7 orders of magnitude colder than outer space. When atoms are cooled to these temperatures, their statistical quantum properties start to become important, and they enter a regime known as quantum degeneracy. Among the applications of these quantum degenerate gases is the technique of quantum simulation - where a system in condensed matter physics that is difficult to either directly probe or model numerically can be instead modelled using ultracold atoms in precisely engineered environments. By tuning the environment, we can gain insights into the properties and behaviour of these complex systems.
I first decided to become a physicist after reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books as a teenager. I had been a long-time fan of fantasy literature, but this trilogy convinced me that there were just as many exciting problems and mysteries in the real world as I could ever find in a library.
I studied for my undergraduate degree in physics at the University of St Andrews, graduating in 2012. During my time there I became involved with research in the quantum degenerate gases group, where I worked on new methods for designing holograms to be used as traps for ultracold atoms. The first time I stepped into the St Andrews cold atom labs I decided that my search for real-world magic had paid off: the tables were packed with optics and lasers, pictures of atomic spectra and atom clouds lined the walls, and the lab whirred with both the buzzing of machinery and the tangible excitement of impending results.
Fortunately, learning the physics behind cold atom techniques did nothing to dispel my fascination, and I decided to pursue my PhD in the same field, working at the University of Oxford in Chris Foot’s ultracold quantum matter group to develop methods for confining atoms using a combination of static magnetic fields and radio-frequency radiation. You can find a brief (3-minute!) summary of my PhD research in this video. While at Oxford, I also became interested in undergraduate teaching, and tutored the third year Quantum, Atomic and Molecular Physics course at St Peter’s and St Catherine’s colleges, before becoming a stipendiary lecturer and first year tutor at St Peter’s college.
On completing my PhD I moved to Cambridge to join the Many-Body Quantum Dynamics group led by Ulrich Schneider. I am currently working on a new experiment where we aim to confine ultracold atoms in complex lattice structures created using laser beams, and will image the resulting system with single-atom precision. This work will provide the precisely tuneable environment that will allow us to create a quantum simulator for condensed matter systems. When I’m not in the lab, I enjoy Scottish Country Dancing and playing the piano.
Publications, links and resources
- T.L. Harte, E.Bentine, K.Luksch, D.Trypogeorgos, B.Yuen, C.J.Foot, "Ultracold atoms in multiple radio-frequency dressed adiabatic potentials", Phys. Rev. A 97, 013616 (2018).
- E. Bentine, T.L. Harte, K. Luksch, A. Barker, B. Yuen, J. Mur-Petit, C.J. Foot, “Species-selective confinement of rf-dressed atoms”, J. Phys. B 50, 094002 (2017).
- D. Bowman, T.L. Harte, V. Chardonnet, C. de Groot, S.J. Denny, G. Le Goc, M. Anderson, P. Ireland, D. Cassettari, G.D.Bruce, “High-fidelity phase and amplitude control of phase-only computer generated holograms using conjugate gradient minimisation”, Optics Express 25 11692-11700 (2017).
- S.J. Thomson, L.S. Walker, T.L. Harte and G.D. Bruce. “Measuring the Edwards-Anderson order parameter of the Bose glass: a quantum gas microscope approach”, Phys. Rev. A 94, 051601(R) (2016).
- T. Harte, E. Bentine, E. Owen, D. Xu, B. Yuen and C. Foot. “An introduction to dressed-atom adiabatic potentials for ultracold atoms”, Instrumentation 2, 76-84 (2015).
- T. Harte, G. D. Bruce, J. Keeling and D. Cassettari. “A conjugate gradient minimisation approach to generating holographic traps for ultracold atoms”, Optics Express 22, 26548-26558 (2014).
- D. Trypogeorgos, T. Harte, A. Bonnin and C. Foot. “Precise shaping of laser light by an acousto-optic deflector”, Optics Express 21, 24837-24846 (2013).