New way found to cool atoms and molecules

August 9, 2005

Physicists at The University of Texas say they've found a new technique for cooling atoms and molecules, allowing more effective quantum physics studies.

The researchers report finding a way to use lasers to form walls that allow atoms and molecules to pass through in one direction, but do not allow them to return.

The technique might lead to advances in atomic clocks, which are used to standardize time.

Dr. Mark Raizen of the university's Center for Nonlinear Dynamics and his colleagues described the one-way wall technique in Physical Review Letters and Europhysics Letters published earlier this year.

Raizen's one-way wall extends the capabilities of laser and evaporative cooling, which have been limited to cooling a small number of atoms in the periodic table.

"The beauty of the one-way atomic wall," Raizen said, "is that there is almost no increase in kinetic energy."

With no increase in kinetic energy comes no increase in heat. By expanding and contracting the space holding the trapped atoms and molecules, the temperature can be lowered to near absolute zero.

It's at such ultra cold temperatures -- minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit -- that quantum physicists can manipulate atoms and molecules.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International

Explore further: Researchers turn atomic force microscope measurements into color images

Related Stories

A miniature laser-like device for surface plasmons

October 17, 2017

Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a miniature device capable of producing laser-like beams of a particular kind of electromagnetic wave called a surface plasmon. Surface plasmons can be focused much more tightly than ...

Recommended for you

When words, structured data are placed on single canvas

October 22, 2017

If "ugh" is your favorite word to describe entering, amending and correcting data on the rows and columns on spreadsheets you are not alone. Coda, a new name in the document business, feels it's time for a change. This is ...

Mountain glaciers shrinking across the West

October 22, 2017

Until recently, glaciers in the United States have been measured in two ways: placing stakes in the snow, as federal scientists have done each year since 1957 at South Cascade Glacier in Washington state; or tracking glacier ...

Dawn mission extended at Ceres

October 20, 2017

NASA has authorized a second extension of the Dawn mission at Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. During this extension, the spacecraft will descend to lower altitudes than ever before ...

Metacognition training boosts gen chem exam scores

October 20, 2017

It's a lesson in scholastic humility: You waltz into an exam, confident that you've got a good enough grip on the class material to swing an 80 percent or so, maybe a 90 if some of the questions go your way.

Carbon coating gives biochar its garden-greening power

October 20, 2017

For more than 100 years, biochar, a carbon-rich, charcoal-like substance made from oxygen-deprived plant or other organic matter, has both delighted and puzzled scientists. As a soil additive, biochar can store carbon and ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.