The ABC’s of AMO Physics

Over at Confused at a Higher Level, Melissa offers an alphabetical list of essential supplies for a condensed matter experimentalist at a small college. This is a fun idea for back-to-school time, so I’ll steal it, and offer the following alphabetical list of essentials for Atomic, Molecular, and Optical physics at a small college, kind of a condensed version of the three part series I did a few weeks ago.

A is for Acousto-optic modulator This is a device that uses sound waves in a crystal to deflect light and shift its frequency. It’s essential for rapid control of laser properties.

B is for Beamsplitter As the name suggests, this splits a beam of light into two. they can be polarizing or non-polarizing, and are obviously essential if you need to do multiple things with one laser.

C is for ConFlat vacuum hardware These things are essentially a stainless steel baby bottle, and are needed to contain the atoms you want to work with, and exclude the ones you don’t.

D is for Diode Lasers They’re flaky, but cheap and tunable.

E is for Epoxy A surprising amount of high-tech scientific apparatus is actually held together with five-minute epoxy.

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What Do You Need to Make Cold Atoms? Appendix: “No-Laser” Methods

Last week’s series of posts on the hardware needed for laser cooling and trapping experiments dealt specifically with laser-cooling type experiments. It’s possible, though, to make cold atoms without using laser cooling, using a number of techniques I described in two posts back in January. Those didn’t go into the hardware required, though, so what’s different about those techniques in terms of the gear?

Less than you might think. In fact, most of the labs that do these experiments use exactly the same sorts of equipment that laser coolers do. Including some lasers.

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What Do You Need to Make Cold Atoms? Part 1: Vacuum Hardware

Over in the reader request thread, Richard asks for experimental details:

I’d be interested in (probably a series) of posts on how people practically actually do cold atoms experiments because I don’t really know.

I needed to take some new publicity photos of the lab anyway, so this is a good excuse to bust out some image-heavy posts– lab porn, if you will. There are a lot of different components that go into making a cold-atom experiment, so we’ll break this down by subsystems, starting with the most photogenic of them, the vacuum system:


(Click on that for a much bigger version.)

This looks like a doomsday device of some kind. So what is all that stuff, and what is it for?

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