Trapping and Cooling Atoms

Posted May 11th, 2010 at 3:09 pm.

Rohini Kamal and Laura Gudorf

Mentor: Professor M. Noel

The purpose of our research is to obtain ultra-cold highly excited Rydberg atoms that are strongly coupled to dipole-dipole interaction. This is applicable in various fields of physics such as quantum computing, solid state modeling, testing quantum mechanical theories and fundamental studies of dipole-dipole interaction.

The type of atoms being used are Potassium and Rubidium atoms. These elements have properties ideal for this experiment. They resemble a hydrogen atom in that they have a positive core and a valence electron. Rydberg atoms are atoms which have a highly excited electron, which is, therefore, at a large distance from the core of the atom. This creates a strong dipole. The fact that the atoms are ultra-cold means that they are moving at a highly reduced speed. The interaction between atoms and the manipulation of their properties thus become much more controllable.

The methods used include magneto-optical trapping and saturated absorption spectroscopy. Magneto-optical trapping requires the development of a diode laser system that can provide a steady light source at the required resonant frequency. Saturated absorption spectroscopy is used to determine the resonant frequency.

After obtaining ultra-cold Rydberg atoms we can study the fundamental properties of their interactions which would involve running simulations to analyze the data obtained from the experiments.

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