Super-resolution microscopy of single atoms in optical lattices

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Andrea Alberti, Carsten Robens, Wolfgang Alt, Stefan Brakhane, Michał Karski, René Reimann, Artur Widera and Dieter Meschede


New J. Phys. 18, 053010 (2016)

We report on image processing techniques and experimental procedures to determine the lattice-site positions of single atoms in an optical lattice with high reliability, even for limited acquisition time or optical resolution. Determining the positions of atoms beyond the diffraction limit relies on parametric deconvolution in close analogy to methods employed in super-resolution microscopy. We develop a deconvolution method that makes effective use of the prior knowledge of the optical transfer function, noise properties, and discreteness of the optical lattice. We show that accurate knowledge of the image formation process enables a dramatic improvement on the localization reliability. This allows us to demonstrate super-resolution of the atoms' position in closely packed ensembles where the separation between particles cannot be directly optically resolved. Furthermore, we demonstrate experimental methods to precisely reconstruct the point spread function with sub-pixel resolution from fluorescence images of single atoms, and we give a mathematical foundation thereof. We also discuss discretized image sampling in pixel detectors and provide a quantitative model of noise sources in electron multiplying CCD cameras. The techniques developed here are not only beneficial to neutral atom experiments, but could also be employed to improve the localization precision of trapped ions for ultra precise force sensing.