This movie shows approximately a dozen atomic ytterbium ions. The ions are trapped under ultrahigh vacuum using time-varying electric fields produced by gold electrodes patterned onto a quartz chip.
By applying voltages to these electrodes we can move the ions and separate them into distinct groups, as you can clearly see in this movie where our ions dance to a jazzy tune.
At the beginning of movie, you first see a line of single ions in an unchanging trap potential. With a temperature a few degrees Kelvin above absolute zero, the ions move slowly enough that you can trace their motion between the frames.
After 6 seconds, we ramp the voltage on one of the electrodes up and down. By increasing the voltage on one electrode, we repel the positively-charged ions from that electrode. As we change the voltage on an electrode to the left of the ions, you see the ions sloshing back and forth across the screen, covering a distance of about 1 millimeter.
After 12 seconds, we switch to changing the voltage on a different electrode. This electrode is patterned so that it splits our chain of ions up into several array sites, forming the clusters of ions.
In the final portion of the movie (17-25 seconds), we combine these two, splitting our chain of ions while shifting it from side to side.
Not just a tool for choreography, the control we have over the ions in our array trap will enable us to explore questions relevant to quantum computing. In our system, our ions are sandwiched (left-right) between two mirrors, an optical cavity. In such a setup, a chain of ions can serve as a quantum register with each ion representing one quantum bit.