Selected Article


Chirped-Frequency Excitation of Gravitationally Bound Ultracold Neutrons


International audience

Ultracold neutrons confined in the Earth’s gravitational field display quantized energy levels that have been observed for over a decade. In recent resonance spectroscopy experiments [T. Jenke et al., Nat. Phys. 7, 468 (2011)NPAHAX1745-247310.1038/nphys1970], the transition between two such gravitational quantum states was driven by the mechanical oscillation of the plates that confine the neutrons. Here we show that by applying a sinusoidal modulation with slowly varying frequency (chirp), the neutrons can be brought to higher excited states by climbing the energy levels one by one. The proposed experiment should make it possible to observe the quantum-classical transition that occurs at high neutron energies. Furthermore, it provides a technique to realize superpositions of gravitational quantum states, to be used for precision tests of gravity at short distances.