We present the first detector that is capable of recording high-bandwidth atom number density measurements of a Bose–Einstein condensate, with a readout of the data in real time. It is based on a shot-noise-limited unbalanced Mach–Zehnder interferometer designed for a minimally destructive measurement of the atom column density of a Bose–Einstein condensate. The shot-noise limit is reached by phase modulating the laser in one arm and phase locking the interferometer with a second-color laser. The detector is characterized, and its sensitivity for a fractional change in the column density of a Bose–Einstein condensate is calculated. With this detection system it may be possible to implement feedback to stabilize a Bose–Einstein condensate or an atom laser.
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