Publication Date

April 2017

Advisor(s)

Reinhold Blümel

Major

Physics

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

Describing the structure of ion Coulomb crystals in periodically-driven systems, such as cylindrical and linear Paul traps, is important for applications in quantum information processing, quantum simulation, spectroscopy, and frequency standard determination. The pseudopotential, a time-independent effective potential obtained by averaging the explicitly time-dependent trapping potential, is often used for this specific purpose, among other uses in the general study of trapped ion dynamics. This thesis examines the strengths and weaknesses of the pseudopotential approximation as a tool for describing few-ion crystal configurations in a Paul trap. Numerical evidence for the failure of the standard pseudopotential commonly found in the literature in predicting crystal alignment effects in such systems is provided. A method for deriving an improved pseudopotential for a general set of coupled differential equations is presented and applied to the cylindrical and linear traps, providing analytical evidence for these "exotic'' crystal alignment effects. The limitations of the improved pseudopotential in explaining crystal instability in certain regions of trap parameter space and in terms of scalability to many-ion systems are discussed.

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