The aim of this project is to exploit the coherent population trapping effect from atomic physics in a completely new type of magnetometer. The idea of exploiting the coherent population trapping effect in a magnetometer was proposed for the first time in 1998. The measuring principle which it is here proposed to differs significantly from the original idea in that two dark-resonances are simultaneously coupled.
The new magnetometer will be unique in terms of having a very high resolution over a very large field range: 1 ppm or even better in a field range of 1 Gauss down to 100 nGauss (0.1 mT ... 10 pT). This is at least three orders of magnitude higher than that of fluxgate magnetometers commonly used in this field range. Furthermore the magnetometer here proposed will have a significantly better drift stability than existing devices and finally it will be very compact (battery driven with dimensions of the order of 200x100x100 mm). Hence this project will open the possibility of manufacturing a cheap instrument, unsurpassed in terms of accuracy and versatility.
The potential applications of the proposed magnetometer are numerous. The most important
is perhaps the detection of landmines. It should be possible eventually to make a device which is more sensitive than existing mine detectors based on Flux-gate magnetometers. It might even be possible to create a device which can detect unmagnetic landmines (mines made out of plastic). It should be emphasised however that at the present stage this latter application cannot be guaranteed.
Further applications include the detection of micro-variations in the earth magnetic field. No device presently available (scientific or commercially) can carry out such accurate measurements at present. Variations in the earth magnetic field are monitored to aid the predictions of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamies.