23 May 2011 Heading error in an alignment-based magnetometer
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A prototype magnetometer for anti-submarine warfare applications is being developed based on nonlinear magneto-optical rotation (NMOR) in atomic vapors. NMOR is an atomic spectroscopy technique that exploits coherences among magnetic sublevels of atoms such as cesium or rubidium to measure magnetic fields with high precision. NMOR uses stroboscopic optical pumping via frequency or amplitude modulation of a linearly polarized laser beam to create the alignment. An anti-relaxation coating on the walls of the atomic vapor cell can result in a long lifetime of 1 s or more for the coherence and enables precise measurement of the precession frequency. With proper feedback, the magnetometer can self-oscillate, resulting in accurate tracking and fast time response. The NMOR magnetic resonance spectrum of 87Rb has been measured as a function of heading in Earth's field. Optical pumping of alignment within the F=2 hyperfine manifold generates three resonances separated by the nonlinear Zeeman splitting. The spectra show a high degree of symmetry, consisting of a central peak and two side peaks of nearly equal intensity. As the heading changes, the ratio of the central peak to the average of the two side peaks changes. The amplitudes of the side peaks remain nearly equal. An analysis of the forced oscillation spectra indicates that, away from dead zones, heading error in self-oscillating mode should be less than 1 nT. A broader background is also observed in the spectra. While this background can be removed when fitting resonance spectra, understanding it will be important to achieving the small heading error in self-oscillating mode that is implied by the spectral measurements. Progress in miniaturizing the magnetometer is also reported. The new design is less than 10 cm across and includes fiber coupling of light to and from the magnetometer head. Initial tests show that the prototype has achieved a narrow spectral width and a strong polarization rotation signal.
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Chris Hovde, Brian Patton, Oscar Versolato, Eric Corsini, Simon Rochester, Dmitry Budker, "Heading error in an alignment-based magnetometer", Proc. SPIE 8046, Unattended Ground, Sea, and Air Sensor Technologies and Applications XIII, 80460Q (23 May 2011); doi: 10.1117/12.883953; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.883953

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