Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Desktop Device Generates And Traps Rare Ultracold Molecules

Date:
December 17, 2007
Source:
University of Rochester
Summary:
Physicists have combined an atom-chiller with a molecule trap, creating for the first time a device that can generate and trap huge numbers of elusive-yet-valuable ultracold polar molecules. Scientists believe ultracold polar molecules will allow them to create exotic artificial crystals and stable quantum computers.

The Thin WIre electroStatic Trap.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Rochester

Physicists at the University of Rochester have combined an atom-chiller with a molecule trap, creating for the first time a device that can generate and trap huge numbers of elusive-yet-valuable ultracold polar molecules.

Related Articles


Scientists believe ultracold polar molecules will allow them to create exotic artificial crystals and stable quantum computers.

"The neat thing about this technology is that it's a very simple, but highly efficient method," says Jan Kleinert, a doctoral physics student at the University of Rochester and designer of the new device. "It lets us produce huge quantities of these ultracold polar molecules, which opens so many doors for us."

The Thin WIre electroStatic Trap, or TWIST, is the first electrostatic polar molecule trap that works simultaneously with a magneto-optical atom trap. This means Kleinert can use the lasers of the magneto-optical trap, or MOT, to chill atoms to just a few millionths of a degree above absolute zero, then force the atoms to group into molecules, and instantaneously hold them in place with the electrostatic TWIST trap.

Traditionally, a complex process of creating and trapping is required to produce these molecules, akin to repeatedly emptying and refilling the ice cube trays in your freezer, says Kleinert. A MOT with a TWIST, however, can create and store the chilled molecules in one place, instantly—more like a refrigerator with an automatic icemaker.

While polar molecules are literally as common as water, and dozens of laboratories around the world can cool atoms to such extreme temperatures, creating an ultracold polar molecule is difficult. Ultracold atoms can combine into molecules, but since only one type of atom can usually be cooled at once, the molecules it makes are electrically symmetric, not polar. Physicists have to either chill regular polar molecules, or chill several types of atoms at the same time and force them to join into molecules. Both processes are so complex that Kleinert says only four laboratories in the world do them, and the yield of ultracold polar molecules until now has been very low.

The TWIST, developed with Kleinert's advisor, Nicholas P. Bigelow, Lee A. DuBridge Professor of Physics at the University of Rochester, makes the complex process much more efficient, and thus makes available many more of these molecules.

The secret to the TWIST is the precise thickness of the tungsten wires that loop around the molecule-production area. In Kleinert's design, atoms are chilled with the lasers of a MOT, which drains away the atoms' energy, chilling them to nearly 460 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.

So far, this is exactly the same as the traditional method, but Kleinert surrounds his target area with tungsten loops that create an electric field. The field has no effect on the chilled atoms, but as the atoms are grouped into polar molecules by a process called photoassociation, the new polar molecules, with a positive charge on one side and a negative charge on the other, are affected by the field.

The electric field has a gradient, and due to some of the strange properties of the quantum world, polar molecules tend to "slide down" that gradient, collecting in the center of the field. As a result, says Kleinert, the TWIST collects and holds the low-field seeking polar molecules but lets other unaffected particles, such as atoms or other molecules, simply drift away.

Those tungsten loops have to be thick enough that they can withstand the electrostatic forces they generate, but thin enough that they don't block the MOT laser initiating the cooling. After months of trial and error and a lot of burned-out tungsten wire, Kleinert found that wires just the width of a hair provided the perfect balance.

"The coldest molecules so far have been produced from MOTs, but until the TWIST came along, electric field trapping and MOTs just didn't go together," says Kleinert. "Now we can accumulate these polar molecules continuously, without switching from creation to storage and back again."

With a good supply of ultracold polar molecules, computer scientists would have a new tool with which to tackle the creation of quantum computers, says Kleinert.

Quantum computer scientists are attracted to ultracold particles because their temperatures reduce decoherence, a phenomenon where your system decays from the carefully prepared quantum configuration you started with, to a classical physics state, which loses all the advantages quantum computers hold.

Ultracold polar molecules in particular are especially attractive because their strong polarity allows them to interact with each other over much larger distances than other atomic particles, and the stronger the interaction between particles, the faster a quantum computer can perform certain operations.

Ultracold polar molecules may even allow scientists to venture into an unknown quarter of the Standard Model of Physics—the size of the electron, says Kleinert. The answer to whether the electron has a definite size or is just a dimensionless point in space could support the Standard Model, or support one of the many alternate models. Trying to approximate the electron's size would likely require ultracold polar molecules, which can have 100 times the sensitivity of simple ultracold atoms. That difference could be enough to make a definitive measurement supporting or chipping away at the Standard Model altogether.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Rochester. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Rochester. "Desktop Device Generates And Traps Rare Ultracold Molecules." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 December 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071212201158.htm>.
University of Rochester. (2007, December 17). Desktop Device Generates And Traps Rare Ultracold Molecules. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071212201158.htm
University of Rochester. "Desktop Device Generates And Traps Rare Ultracold Molecules." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071212201158.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Building Google Into Cars

Building Google Into Cars

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Google's next Android version could become the standard that'll power your vehicle's entertainment and navigation features, Reuters has learned. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
AP Review: Nikon D750 and GoPro Hero 4

AP Review: Nikon D750 and GoPro Hero 4

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) What to buy an experienced photographer or video shooter? There is some strong gear on the market from Nikon and GoPro. The AP's Ron Harris takes a closer look. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins