Flipping an egg carton of light traps giant atoms

Dec 23, 2011 by Nicole Casal Moore
Giant Rydberg atoms become trapped in wells of laser light in a new highly efficient trap developed by University of Michigan physicists. They liken it to an egg carton. Image: Sarah Anderson

(PhysOrg.com) -- In an egg carton of laser light, University of Michigan physicists can trap giant Rydberg atoms with up to 90 percent efficiency, an achievement that could advance quantum computing and terahertz imaging, among other applications.

Highly excited Rydberg atoms can be 1,000 times larger than their ground state counterparts. Nearly ionized, they cling to faraway electrons almost beyond their reach. Trapping them efficiently is an important step in realizing their potential, the researchers say.

Here's how they did it:

In previous Rydberg atom traps, atoms came to rest at the top of the peaks of the laser light lattice, and tended to escape. University of Michigan researchers solved this problem by quickly flipping the lattice, trapping the giant Rydberg atoms in the wells, like eggs in a carton. Image: Sarah Anderson

"Our is made from a pair of counter-propagating and forms a series of wells that can trap the atoms, similar to how an egg carton holds eggs," said Georg Raithel, a U-M physics professor and co-author of a paper on the work published in the current edition of . Other co-authors are physics doctoral student Sarah Anderson and recent doctoral graduate Kelly Younge.

The researchers developed a unique way to solve a problem that had been limiting trapping efficiency to single digit percentages. For Rydberg atoms to be trapped, they first have to be cooled to slow them down. The process that accomplishes that tended to leave the atoms at the peaks of what the researchers call the "lattice hills." The atoms didn't often stay there.

"To overcome this obstacle, we implemented a method to rapidly invert the lattice after the Rydberg atoms are created at the tops of the hills," Anderson said. "We apply the lattice inversion before the atoms have time to move away, and they therefore quickly find themselves in the bottoms of the lattice wells, where they are trapped."

Raithel says there is plenty of technological room left to reach 100 percent trapping efficiency, which is necessary for advanced applications. Rydberg atoms are candidates to implement gates in future quantum computers that have the potential to solve problems too complicated for conventional computers. They could also be used in terahertz imaging and detection devices that could be used in airport scanners or surveillance equipment.

This work is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. The paper is titled "Trapping Rydberg atoms in an optical lattice."

Explore further: Sensitive detection method may help impede illicit nuclear trafficking

More information: prl.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v107/i26/e263001

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User comments : 7

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YummyFur
5 / 5 (1) Dec 23, 2011
What a fun time to be alive.
Nanobanano
1 / 5 (2) Dec 23, 2011
an achievement that could advance quantum computing and terahertz imaging


EVERYTHING will be used in Quantum computing, and in solar cells. EVERYTHING.

If Articles can be believed, Quantum Computers will have at least a quadrillion unique components.
NeutronicallyRepulsive
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 23, 2011
Nanobanano: I agree. And it would seem, by the articles presented here, we already got about trillion of them already.
Cave_Man
1 / 5 (6) Dec 23, 2011
What a fun time to be alive.

Unless you don't have an education in science or an adept problem solving mind.

This is the age of confusion and ignorance if you ask me, we have lost more in the last 2000 years than anyone could have imagined.

I take a philosophical standpoint when it comes to the phenomenon of life and death. Being a cave man forces you to come into direct contact with the world, elements in their raw forms are inhaled exhaled, touch and felt, seen and heard, tasted and smelled, and life itself is more direct. Nowadays our life is not our own, we must query our devices in order to retrieve the information that's important to us. Is this really progress?

I'd rather die fighting for my life with some wild animal than in a hospital bed with ignorant children offering useless platitudes to console me as a approach something that cannot be spoken or heard or seen or sensed in any way.
Cave_Man
1 / 5 (5) Dec 23, 2011
an achievement that could advance quantum computing and terahertz imaging


EVERYTHING will be used in Quantum computing, and in solar cells. EVERYTHING.

If Articles can be believed, Quantum Computers will have at least a quadrillion unique components.


First time I was told about quantum "computing" I though wow, so you could actually just capture a photon from the big bang (or any particle really) and it would be connected to every other particle in the universe through quantum entanglement?

I still see people saying that if you know the position and speed of everything in a set system you could tell the future but quantum mechanics makes that impossible. I find that highly unlikely, all quantum mechanics has showed us is that with enough computing power you dont need to know the speed and position of everything, only one thing.
BIG COCK
5 / 5 (3) Dec 23, 2011
Being a cave man forces you to come into direct contact with the world, elements in their raw forms are inhaled exhaled, touch and felt, seen and heard, tasted and smelled, and life itself is more direct. Nowadays our life is not our own, we must query our devices in order to retrieve the information that's important to us. Is this really progress?

"GRUNT GRUNT BURP!"
-Caveman
Isaacsname
not rated yet Dec 24, 2011
Neat article, it's kind of like a microscopic version of acoustic shaping. I wonder how many times a second they have to invert the lattice to keep the atoms trapped. That's kind of like cupping an egg in your hand, up>down>up>down, etc. No ?

I wonder if they could gradually decrease the space provided by the saddles by slowly decreasing the wavelength ?

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