Atoms are best studied when slowed down and to slow them, atoms must be cooled. As such, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have made tiny optical components that are needed to cool atoms down for a few thousandths of degrees above absolute zero. The first step involved microchips to drive atomic clocks that ultimately simulate quantum systems.
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"This is important as it demonstrates a pathway for making real devices and not just small versions of laboratory experiments," says NIST researcher William McGehee.
Findings of the apparatus were published in the New Journal of Physics.
"That's the fun part of this story," he said. "I knew all the NIST scientists who had independently worked on these different components, and I realized the elements could be put together to create a miniaturized laser cooling system."
"Ultimately, making the light preparation smaller and less complicated will enable laser-cooling based technologies to exist outside of laboratories," he said.