Optical "Tweezers" Turn Two Atoms into Molecule

  • Author: ChemistryViews.org
  • Published: 27 May 2018
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA
  • Source / Publisher: Science/American Association for the Advancement of Science
thumbnail image: Optical

During a chemical reaction, large numbers of atoms or molecules move and collide randomly, which occasionally results in a chemical transformation. Researchers trying to control and study chemical reactions on the level of individual atoms or molecules have manipulated individual atoms using a scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) tip. However, these experiments take place on a surface, which influences the results. Studying individual atoms in isolation, in contrast, could improve the understanding of reactions in the gas phase.

Kang-Kuen Ni, Harvard University and Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms, Cambridge, MA, USA, and colleagues have combined two individual atoms (Na and Cs) into a molecule without the help of a surface. The team first prepared laser-cooled sodium and cesium atoms in a vacuum chamber at temperatures as low as several hundred microkelvin and kept them in two overlapping magneto-optical traps (MOTs). Such a trap consists of a laser and a magnetic field which, together, slow down the movement of the trapped particles.

The researchers used "optical tweezers" to manipulate individual atoms. This method uses a focused laser beam to attract or repulse microscopic objects and, thus, move them. Lasers with different wavelengths allowed the researchers to move Na and Cs atoms independently.

The team moved one Na and one Cs atom together. Then they used light to initiate a reaction and form an excited NaCs molecule. The process was monitored using single-molecule spectroscopy. According to the researchers, such molecules with high dipole moments could be useful as molecular qubits in quantum computing. Qubits or quantum bits are the quantum computing analogues of the bits used in "normal", binary computing.


Article Views: 907

Sign in Area

Please sign in below

Additional Sign In options

Please note that to comment on an article you must be registered and logged in.
Registration is for free, you may already be registered to receive, e.g., the newsletter. When you register on this website, please ensure you view our terms and conditions. All comments are subject to moderation.

Article Comments - To add a comment please sign in

Bookmark and Share

If you would like to reuse any content, in print or online, from ChemistryViews.org, please contact us first for permission. more


ChemistryViews.org on Facebook

ChemistryViews.org on Twitter ChemistryViews.org on YouTube ChemistryViews.org on LinkedIn Sign up for our free newsletter

A product of ChemPubSoc Europe (16 European Chemical Societies)and Wiley-VCH