Physics – High Energy Physics – High Energy Physics - Experiment
21 pages, 13 figures, submitted to Modern Physics Letters
A number of experiments are underway to detect vacuum birefringence and dichroism -- PVLAS, Q & A, and BMV. Recently, PVLAS experiment has observed optical rotation in vacuum by a magnetic field (vacuum dichroism). Theoretical interpretations of this result include a possible pseudoscalar-photon interaction and the existence of millicharged fermions. Here, we report the progress and first results of Q & A (QED [quantum electrodynamics] and Axion) experiment proposed and started in 1994. A 3.5-m high-finesse (around 30,000) Fabry-Perot prototype detector extendable to 7-m has been built and tested. We use X-pendulums and automatic control schemes developed by the gravitational-wave detection community for mirror suspension and cavity control. To polarize the vacuum, we use a 2.3-T dipole permanent magnet, with 27-mm-diameter clear borehole and 0.6-m field length,. In the experiment, the magnet is rotated at 5-10 rev/s to generate time-dependent polarization signal with twice the rotation frequency. Our ellipsometer/polarization-rotation-detection-system is formed by a pair of Glan-Taylor type polarizing prisms with extinction ratio lower than 10-8 together with a polarization modulating Faraday Cell with/without a quarter wave plate. We made an independent calibration of our apparatus by performing a measurement of gaseous Cotton-Mouton effect of nitrogen. We present our first experimental results and give a brief discussion of our experimental limit on pseudo-scalar-photon interaction and millicharged fermions.
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