Know Your Laser-Cooled Atoms

At the tail end of the cold-atom toolbox series, I joked about doing a “trading card” version shortening the posts to a more web-friendly length. In idly thinking about this, though, it occurred to me that if one were going to have cold-atom trading cards, it might make more sense to have them for the atoms, rather than the techniques. And having just devoted many thousands of words to technique, I don’t really feel like trying to cut those down more, but atoms

The “featured image” up top is a slide from my laser cooling lectures for our first-year seminar class. Elements outlined in red have been laser cooled; the highlight colors within the boxes indicate different groups of atoms that are interesting for some common reason. I show this in class both to brag about the number of atomic species that the techniques I talk about can be applied to, and also to remind students of the vast swathes of the Periodic Table that are, as yet, unexplored in the ultracold regime.

I last gave this set of lectures in 2011, so the slide’s a bit out of date– in particular, dysprosium has not only been laser cooled, but Bose condensed since I last updated this. And even the out-of-date version has more atoms than I’d have the patience to write up individually. But we’ll give this a go for a little while, at least, which should be enough to cover the really important atomic species from the history of laser cooling. Which ought to be enough to make a point of some sort.

I’m not going to do these all at once (though there will probably be a few in a row in the next couple of days, to get the ball rolling), but I hope they’ll provide a source of quick-and-easy blog posts for the next little while that will hopefully be at least somewhat interesting to read.

2 thoughts on “Know Your Laser-Cooled Atoms

  1. erbium has been condensed too, hasn’t it? I wonder why radon hasn’t. It’s radioactive, but compared to say francium, it’s practically stable.

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