New method for quantum cooling discovered by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin

August 08, 2005

AUSTIN, Texas--Physicists at The University of Texas at Austin have discovered a new technique for cooling atoms and molecules that will allow them to study quantum physics more effectively with a greater variety of particles.

The researchers have found 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 could lead to advances in atomic clocks, which are used to standardize time worldwide.

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

Raizen and his colleagues show that atoms and molecules can first be trapped in a box whose walls are built of laser light. The box can then be separated with an optical wall constructed of two lasers. These two lasers work in concert to allow atoms and molecules to pass through to one side of the box but block them from getting back to the other side. The box then has two distinct spaces, one filled with particles and one void of particles.

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 new method is applicable to a greater diversity of atoms and molecules and can expand the capability of researchers to test laws of quantum physics at extremely low temperatures.

"In nature, the cell wall is the classic example where atoms and molecules move through a one-way barrier," Raizen said.

Cells regulate the flow of ions through one-way channels in order to create osmotic pressure. Raizen and his colleagues illustrate it is possible to create a manmade barrier to such atomic movement.

"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 that holds the trapped atoms and molecules, the temperature of this space, which Raizen calls a "quantum refrigerator," can be lowered until it reaches very close to Absolute Zero.

It's at these ultra cold temperatures, -459 degrees Fahrenheit, that quantum physicists can manipulate atoms and molecules.
For more information contact: Lee Clippard, College of Natural Sciences,, 512-232-0675.

University of Texas at Austin

Related Quantum Physics Articles from Brightsurf:

Know when to unfold 'em: Applying particle physics methods to quantum computing
Borrowing a page from high-energy physics and astronomy textbooks, a team of physicists and computer scientists at Berkeley Lab has successfully adapted and applied a common error-reduction technique to the field of quantum computing.

Quantum physics: Physicists successfully carry out controlled transport of stored light
A team of physicists at Mainz University has successfully transported light stored in a quantum memory over a distance of 1.2 millimeters.

New system detects faint communications signals using the principles of quantum physics
Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have devised and demonstrated a system that could dramatically increase the performance of communications networks while enabling record-low error rates in detecting even the faintest of signals.

Quirky response to magnetism presents quantum physics mystery
In a new study just published and highlighted as an Editor's Suggestion in Physical Review Letters, scientists describe the quirky behavior of one such magnetic topological insulator.

Evidence of power: Phasing quantum annealers into experiments from nonequilibrium physics
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) use commercially available quantum annealers, a type of quantum computer, to experimentally probe the validity of an important mechanism from nonequilibrium physics in open quantum systems.

Adapting ideas from quantum physics to calculate alternative interventions for infection and cancer
Published in Nature Physics, findings from a new study co-led by Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University teams show for the first time how ideas from quantum physics can help develop novel drug interventions for bacterial infections and cancer.

Quantum physics: Realization of an anomalous Floquet topological system
An international team led by physicists from the Ludwig-Maximilians Universitaet (LMU) in Munich realized a novel genuine time-dependent topological system with ultracold atoms in periodically-driven optical honeycomb lattices.

Quantum physics provides a way to hide ignorance
Students can hide their ignorance and answer questions correctly in an exam without their lack of knowledge being detected by teachers -- but only in the quantum world.

Quantum physics: Physicists develop a new theory for Bose-Einstein condensates
Bose-Einstein condensates are often described as the fifth state of matter: At extremely low temperatures, gas atoms behave like a single particle.

Attosecond physics: Quantum brakes in molecules
Physicists have measured the flight times of electrons emitted from a specific atom in a molecule upon excitation with laser light.

Read More: Quantum Physics News and Quantum Physics Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to