Laser-cooled Rydberg atoms have emerged as fascinating quantum objects with a multitude of applications in quantum science ranging from many-body physics over precision sensing to molecular physics and chemistry. Specifically, their extreme mutual interactions make them pristine candidates to study interacting quantum many-body systems in experimental settings where the atomic ensemble can be controlled and read out at the level of individual atoms.
So far, experiments have exploited Rydberg atoms for which the electron is prepared in orbitals with small angular momentum L. In this project, we aim to achieve control over Rydberg many-body systems in quantum states with the maximum angular momentum allowed by quantum mechanics, so called circular Rydberg states. Circular Rydberg states allow to achieve orders of magnitude longer quantum state lifetimes and thus promise exciting means to strongly boost coherence times for Rydberg-based quantum simulation platforms.
Individual control over these peculiar objects has already allowed for Nobel prize winning experiments on the fundamental quantum nature of light performed in atomic beam experiments. Here, we aim to extend this control to laser-cooled circular Rydberg atoms trapped in flexible optical micro-trap arrays. To this end, we will develop novel tools to create and control high-n interacting circular Rydberg atoms at the level of individual particles. With this at hand, we are specifically interested to exploit their exaggerated coherence properties for investigating many-body physics far from equilibrium and to study anomalous excitation dynamics and transport in extended quantum spin arrays.