In our last blog piece, we touched upon user experience of the Alice interface. Today, we are sharing Robert’s insights to get a better understanding of Alice and Alice experiment. Robert Heck is a PhD student who has been working at ScienceAtHome lab for over 3 years. He specializes in the manipulation of ultracold quantum gasses. Robert was the second PhD student to join our lab, right after Romain, and he is almost done with his PhD thesis.
In our previous articles, we have already talked about the principles behind Alice interface. But why do we need Alice in the first place?
For building a quantum computer out of ultracold atoms, we, first of all, need ultracold atoms themselves. The atoms we use in our experiment are Rubidium atoms. They come from a small wire that is heated, releasing a Rubidium vapor of ~300-400°C into our experimental chamber. This cloud has to be now cooled down to extremely cold temperatures just above absolute zero at -273.15°C. That is colder than it ever gets in outer space!
In order to do so, we have to use a lot of different techniques, which involves multiple different lasers, magnetic field coils, microwave generators… These devices have to be switched on and off, powers have to be turned up and down, frequencies have to be changed. And all has to happen with microsecond precision. This leads to hundreds of different parameters that have to be controlled in the right way.
Alice, our experimental control system, takes care of applying these parameters with the right timing. However, it is still up to us experimentalists to find the correct values for these parameters, which can be compared to a really big, complicated puzzle. Here is where Alice can help us because we can condense parts of the sequence into small building blocks which can be arbitrarily combined. Maybe it sounds complicated, but it makes things much clearer and helps us to focus on essential parts.
Alice experiment will soon allow people from all over the world to use ScienceAtHome lab and offer their solutions. Can you elaborate on how exactly is Alice opening up our lab?
We can give other people one of these building blocks we just mentioned and they can help us to make it better. This is what we have done recently. We gave a very important building block which was controlling the evaporative cooling, the very last cooling step in our experiment, to different groups of people. We had help from theorists in Germany, an undergraduate physics student from Aarhus and an experimentalist from England. All were individually trying to make that building block better, with the goal to get more and colder atoms. And they didn’t have to come to Aarhus. They had a simplified version of Alice, showing them only the building block they were working on. With this, they could remote control our lab and see the result from where they were.
Soon, we would like to go even a step further. So far it was only physicists controlling our experiment. But we would like to have also the help of people outside of physics to make our experiment better. Therefore, we are developing an even more intuitively usable version of Alice, which will make controlling the lab rather a game instead of programming some parameters.
Quantum Moves which involves all people helping to solve a theoretical physical problem which will help to build a quantum computer was only a first step. Alice will make it possible to actually interact with the experiment itself.