Experiments with Trapped Ions and Ultrafast Laser Pulses

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Since the dawn of quantum information science, laser-cooled trapped atomic ions have been one of the most compelling systems for the physical realization of a quantum computer. By applying qubit state dependent forces to the ions, their collective motional modes can be used as a bus to realize entangling quantum gates. Ultrafast state-dependent kicks [1] can provide a universal set of quantum logic operations, in conjunction with ultrafast single qubit rotations [2], which uses only ultrafast laser pulses. This may present a clearer route to scaling a trapped ion processor [3]. In addition to the role that spin-dependent kicks (SDKs) play in quantum computation, their utility in fundamental quantum mechanics research is also apparent. In this thesis, we present a set of experiments which demonstrate some of the principle properties of SDKs including ion motion independence (we demonstrate single ion thermometry from the ground state to near room temperature and the largest Schrodinger cat state ever created in an oscillator), high speed operations (compared with conventional atom-laser interactions), and multi-qubit entanglement operations with speed that is not fundamentally limited by the trap oscillation frequency. We also present a method to provide higher stability in the radial mode ion oscillation frequencies of a linear radiofrequency (rf) Paul trap--a crucial factor when performing operations on the rf-sensitive modes. Finally, we present the highest atomic position sensitivity measurement of an isolated atom to date of ~0.5 nm Hz^(-1/2) with a minimum uncertainty of 1.7 nm using a 0.6 numerical aperature (NA) lens system, along with a method to correct aberrations and a direct position measurement of ion micromotion (the inherent oscillations of an ion trapped in an oscillating rf field). This development could be used to directly image atom motion in the quantum regime, along with sensing forces at the yoctonewton [10^(-24) N)] scale for gravity sensing, and 3D imaging of atoms from static to higher frequency motion. These ultrafast atomic qubit manipulation tools demonstrate inherent advantages over conventional techniques, offering a fundamentally distinct regime of control and speed not previously achievable.