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 Tracing aromatic molecules in the early universe
23.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside

nachricht New study maps space dust in 3-D
23.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short

23.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics

23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Sea ice extent sinks to record lows at both poles

23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>