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 NASA Protects its super heroes from space weather
17.08.2017 | NASA/Johnson Space Center

nachricht New thruster design increases efficiency for future spaceflight
16.08.2017 | American Institute of Physics

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: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Climate change: In their old age, trees still accumulate large quantities of carbon

17.08.2017 | Earth Sciences

Modern genetic sequencing tools give clearer picture of how corals are related

17.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Superconductivity research reveals potential new state of matter

17.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>