Trapping Atoms with a Single Laser


In the summer of 2009 I worked at Durham University's Atomic and Molecular Research Centre (AtMol), working towards trapping molecules with a single laser using a pyramid magneto-optical trap (MOT). As a research associate I worked with PhD students working on the project.

One of the aims of the project is to use laser cooling to trap individual atoms of strontium; the AtMol team use magneto-optical traps (MOT) to get to this goal. A magneto-optical trap uses a strong magnetic field (the magneto bit) and lasers (the optical bit) to create a trap that forces atoms of strontium into a small space.

Strontium is an unusual choice for an atom to trap - because it has 2 valence electrons, it is more difficult to trap than those with one valence electron. However, one of the advantages is that the lasers used to trap strontium are in the visible spectrum, leading to some cool images:

50/50 Beam Splitter Laser light through some components of the MOT setup

The project is online at the AtMol website.

« More projects