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Wednesday, July 25 2018: You may not know that it is possible to make a laser for sound, but that's just what Michael, Tony, Conrad, Xueping, and Andrew found when they laser cooled a trapped ion with an optical frequency comb.  In their paper that came out today, they report the creation of a phonon laser (a "phaser") from a single trapped ion.  It turns out that the gain saturation of the phaser keeps the blue-detuned comb teeth from heating the ions out of the trap, and allows direct loading of the trap with the comb.  This finding has important consequences for ions needing light in the deep UV, such as He+, where the only available laser light is in comb form. + continue reading
Tuesday, June 19 2018: In cold, dilute gases such as the interstellar medium (ISM), the chemical reactions are dominated by ionic species since their net charge allows them to polarize and "capture" nearby neutrals for reactions.  Tiangang and Gary have recetly released the first results from their "ISM in a bottle" experiment, where they controlled the reactions of laser-cooled Be+ ions with neutral water molecules.  Surprisingly, despite the fact that this reaction is exothermic and allowed even at zero temperature, the reaction rate is suppressed compared to capture theory, an effect that our theory collaboratrs show is due to a bottleneck in the reaction pathway called a submerged barrier.  Exotic effects of this type will be the target of study in this apparatus for the next phase of work. + continue reading
Thursday, March 8 2018: Tony and Eliot (along with Paul Hamilton and Amar Vutha) have published a paper showing how an effect that is typically encountered in quantum systems (the "geometric phase" associated with the displacement operator) can be easily understood by looking at classical systems.  They performed an experiment with classical optics to measure this phase and to help demonstrate its mechanism of action.  The idea is that this paper may help to demystify the appearance of this effect, which often seems surprising to students when they first encounter it. + continue reading
Tuesday, November 14 2017: Scarlett has been awarded a prize for her poster, "Stimulated Force for Optical Deceleration of Molecules" presented in the Engineering, Physics, and Mathematics category at the ABRCMS conference in Phoenix, Az. This is a prestegious award for an undergraduate researcher, and Scarlett's stellar work on our cold polar molecule experiment continues to impress.  Congratulations to Scarlett! + continue reading
Thursday, October 26 2017: Adam and Randy have trapped and crystallized Ba+ ions in the gyroscope for the first time.  They're working with 138Ba+,  a stable isotope that does not have nuclear spin, and the internal state qubit will be encoded in Zeeman sublevels.  This little fella wants nothing more than to start orbiting.  + continue reading
Wednesday, September 6 2017: Dave and Justin have recently trapped a synthetic isotope of barium and performed some preliminary spectroscopy of its structure.  Singly-ionized barium-133 has an internal structure that makes it the envy of all trapped ion qubits -- the spin-1/2 nucleus makes it easy to initialize, the metastable D states are extremely long-lived for a process called "shelving," and the lasers are all in the friendly visible part of the spectrum.  This work is a collaboration with Eric Hudson, and you can learn more by reading the paper, which came out today in Physical Review Letters. + continue reading
Thursday, February 23 2017: Quantum mechanics endows massive particles with wave-like properties that can be put to good use in sensing applications.  Matter-wave interferometers have been made using everything from electrons to bucky-balls, but precision sensing applications with matter waves have generally been restricted to neutral atoms, which can be produced in large numbers and controlled fairly well.  We have recently invented a way to use trapped atomic ions as a gyroscope (rotation sensor), where the high degree of control found in this system can be used to overcome the small numbers of particles involved in the interference.  This work may someday be used in navigation applications where GPS (another useful product of atomic physics!) is not available, such as underwater or in the event of severe space weather. + continue reading
Tuesday, October 11 2016: Andrew and Xueping have successfully demonstrated a technique that is designed to laser cool and trap atoms such as hydrogen and carbon (see publications for a link to the paper).  These species play the starring role in organic chemistry, yet are essentially beyond the reach of laser cooling and trapping due to the extremely deep UV light needed for laser cooling them.  By using a frequency comb instead of a narrow-band laser, Xueping and Andrew have shown that a two-photon transition can be driven with far greater efficiency than a frequency doubled continuous wave laser can do, and that this comb can be used to cool and trap the atoms.  The trapping came as a surprise to us, because the possibility that spectator comb teeth drive an undesired transition seemed very likely to us.  Nonetheless, this technique works very well, and seems to open the door to ultracold... + continue reading
Tuesday, December 22 2015: Tony has made a nice beam profiler from a Raspberry Pi that was recently featured in a story on the blog HACK A DAY.  This idea was also expolred by undergraduate Maxx Tepper for his Physics 199 project.  This device allows us to measure the transverse intensity profile of our laser beams with an inexpensive, protable device.  Source code can be found in the link on the blog post. + continue reading
Monday, May 11 2015: We have successfully trapped and cooled 174Yb ions in our oblate Paul trap which was fabricated by Translume. In the image, there is a 2D crystal of Yb ions.  + continue reading

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