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I last gave this set of lectures in 2011, so the slide’s a bit out of date– in particular, dysprosium has not only been laser cooled, but Bose condensed since I last updated this. And even the out-of-date version has more atoms than I’d have the patience to write up individually.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.


  1. #1 Rachel
    August 19, 2013

    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.

  2. #2 Dan Riley
    August 20, 2013

    Cold atom or laser cooled? If it’s cold atom, please don’t forget hydrogen…


The site is currently under maintenance. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.