Testing the Universality of Free-Fall with cold atoms


Inertial sensors based on matter-wave interferometry have benefitted from the progress in laser-cooling techniques over the pas 20 years, and offer performances comparable or better than their classical counterparts.

Recent developments in laser technologies now open the way to transportable devices, with applications to geophysics (geoid mapping, airborne gravimetry, oil prospection, volcano monitoring...) and fundamental physics tests (Universality of Free-Fall, gravitational wave detection...).

The I.C.E. (Interférometrie atomique à sources Cohérentes pour l'Espace - Coherent atom interferometry for space applications) experiment is a compact and transportable atom interferometer, designed to test the Universality of Free-Fall in a plane carrying out parabolic flights. It is a collaboration between three French labs : Institut d'Optique, LNE-Syrte and ONERA. The project is largely funded by CNES.

The experimental apparatus has been specifically designed to withstand vibrations and temperature fluctuations in the plane, and has been validated by operating the first airborne inertial sensor in 2010.

The first test of the weak equivalence principle in microgravity thanks to a double species atom interferometer Rubidium/Potassium was achieved in May 2015 !!! More details soon...




Video from 55th ESA Parabolic Flight Campaign (Nov. 2011). ©ESA 2011


Latest news

  • Internship 2016: Vibrations damping of the reference mirror within an atom interferometer aboard the ZERO-G plane The ICE project aims to develop a matter wave interferometer with two atomic species operating in microgravity. This apparatus use “classical” atom optics elements, that is to say laser beams ...
    Posted 23 Oct 2015, 09:26 by Baptiste Battelier
  • Ph D. Position 2016 The ICE project aims to develop a matter wave interferometer with two atomic species operating in microgravity. The development of a portable experiment for free fall test (airbus 0g) is ...
    Posted 23 Oct 2015, 09:23 by Baptiste Battelier
  • ICE project highlighted on ESA website Following the latest campaign, you will find an article and our flying postdoc on ESA website:http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/Research/Don_t_fasten_your_seatbelt
    Posted 11 Jun 2013, 07:44 by Baptiste Battelier
  • PhD proposal for 2013 The ICE project aims to develop a matter wave interferometer with two atomic species operating in microgravity. The development of a portable experiment for free fall test (airbus 0g) is ...
    Posted 26 Sep 2012, 10:34 by Baptiste Battelier
  • Philippe Bouyer awarded "Fondation Louis D. de l'Institut de France" prize Philippe Bouyer was awarded the "prix de la fondation Louis D. de l'Institut de France" for his research on cold atoms and matter-wave interferometry, jointly with Christophe Salomon ...
    Posted 15 Jun 2012, 08:22 by Vincent Ménoret
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