Union College Department of Physics

Physics 14, Freshman Seminar: Fall 2001

Module 2: Laser Cooling

Instructor: Chad Orzel

Description: In this module, we will explain how to cool a sample of atoms to a temperature of only a few millionths of a degree above absolute zero using nothing but light from a laser. We will study the basic techniques of laser cooling and atom trapping (Doppler cooling, "optical molasses," and magnetic trapping), and applications of these techniques ranging from the building of laser-cooled atomic clocks to the study of exotic quantum mechanical phenomena like Bose-Einstein Condensation.

Final Exam Study Questions

The laser cooling portion of the final exam will be drawn from this list of questions.


Reading for this module will consist of threeScientific American articles:

These articles have been placed on reserve at the library, and are available in electronic form via the Schaffer Library Web Catalog (follow the "Reserve Room" link; access to the electronic reserve server is limited to the Union College campus).

Additional reading can be found in the Nobel Lectures by Steve Chu, Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Bill Phillips, and Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman, reprinted in Reviews of Modern Physics (Link 1: Chu, Cohen-Tannoudji, and Phillips and Link 2: Cornell and Wieman) (The links should be accessible from computers on the campus network; additionally, the articles are on reserve in the library). These articles are considerably more detailed than the above (especially the Cohen-Tannoudji article), but provide some historical context for the ideas discussed in this module, as well as some examples of applications beyond those we will discuss in class.

A number of the ideas discussed in the lectures are presented in a series of Java applets designed by the Physics 2000 program at the University of Colorado. It's not required reading, but the evaporative cooling video game is pretty amusing, and the cheesey Q & A format is a hoot.

Assignments (in MS Word Format):

Lecture Notes are available here as an aid to studying/ homework:

Homework Solutions:

Back to Chad Orzel's Teaching page.

Last modified: 6 October, 2003
Room N334 NWSE, (518) 388-8053