Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Laser trapping of erbium may lead to novel devices

02.05.2006


Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have used lasers to cool and trap erbium atoms, a "rare earth" heavy metal with unusual optical, electronic and magnetic properties. The element has such a complex energy structure that it was previously considered too wild to trap. The demonstration, reported in the April 14 issue of Physical Review Letters,* might lead to the development of novel nanoscale devices for telecommunications, quantum computing or fine-tuning the properties of semiconductors.


A purple laser beam slows erbium atoms (the purple beam traveling right to left) emerging from an oven at 1300 degrees C, in preparation for trapping and cooling. The unusual properties of erbium atoms and the new capability to trap them could lead to development of novel technologies. Credit: Credit: NIST



Laser cooling and trapping involves hitting atoms with laser beams of just the right color and configuration to cause the atoms to absorb and emit light in a way that leads to controlled loss of momentum and heat, ultimately producing a stable, nearly motionless state. Until now, the process has been possible only with atoms that switch easily between two energy levels without any possible stops in between. Erbium has over 110 energy levels between the two used in laser cooling, and thus has many ways to get "lost" in the process. NIST researchers discovered that these lost atoms actually get recycled, so trapping is possible after all.

The NIST team heated erbium to over 1300 degrees C to make a stream of atoms. Magnetic fields and six counter-propagating purple laser beams were then used to cool and trap over a million atoms in a space about 100 micrometers in diameter. As the atoms spend time in the trap, they fall into one or more of the 110 energy levels, stop responding to the lasers, and begin to diffuse out of the trap. Recycling occurs, though, because the atoms are sufficiently magnetic to be held in the vicinity by the trap’s magnetic field. Eventually, many of the lurking atoms fall back to the lowest energy level that resonates with the laser light and are recaptured in the trap.


The erbium atoms can be trapped at a density that is high enough to be a good starting point for making a Bose-Einstein condensate, an unusual, very uniform state of matter used in NIST research on quantum computing. Cold trapped erbium also might be useful for producing single photons, the smallest particles of light, at wavelengths used in telecommunications. In addition, trapped erbium atoms might be used for "doping" semiconductors with small amounts of impurities to tailor their properties. Erbium--which, like other rare earth metals, retains its unique optical characteristics even when mixed with other materials--is already used in lasers, amplifiers and glazes for glasses and ceramics. Erbium salts, for example, emit pastel pink light.

Laura Ost | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nist.gov

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht From rocks in Colorado, evidence of a 'chaotic solar system'
23.02.2017 | University of Wisconsin-Madison

nachricht Prediction: More gas-giants will be found orbiting Sun-like stars
22.02.2017 | Carnegie Institution for Science

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Safe glide at total engine failure with ELA-inside

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded after a glide flight with an Airbus A320 in ditching on the Hudson River. All 155 people on board were saved.

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded...

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New pop-up strategy inspired by cuts, not folds

27.02.2017 | Materials Sciences

Sandia uses confined nanoparticles to improve hydrogen storage materials performance

27.02.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

Decoding the genome's cryptic language

27.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>