Mentor: Dr. Michael Noel
A magneto-optical trap is used to isolate and cool clouds of atoms. Lasers are used to bombard the atoms with photons thereby exchanging momentum with the atoms and damping their motion in the direction of the laser. By using lasers in multiple directions of motion, the photon-atom collisions cause the atoms to lose kinetic energy, independent of their direction of motion, until they are nearly motionless. In this super-cooled state the temperature can be as low as 1 m K. Magnetic fields are used to direct and congregate the atoms into a certain region of space within a vacuum and trap them for an extended period of time. This summer I am constructing one such trap, however, instead of capturing clouds of atoms my goal is to have the trap be precise enough to capture and cool individual atoms. The key to achieving this will be to use tightly focused laser light to capture and observe one atom at a time. Beyond construction of the trap, further research will possibly involve observation of the properties of the individual atoms in their super-cooled states as well as there interactions with each other.