Physicists slow, stop atom movements

Oct. 4, 2007 at 1:18 PM
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AUSTIN, Texas, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- A team of U.S. physicists has discovered a way of slowing or stopping the movement of atoms, allowing a much wider exploration of molecules.

The University of Texas at Austin physicists -- inspired by the coilgun developed by the university’s Center for Electromechanics -- developed an "atomic coilgun" that slows and gradually stops atoms with a sequence of pulsed magnetic fields.

Professor Mark Raizen and colleagues said they ultimately plan on using the gun to trap atomic hydrogen, which Raizen said has been the Rosetta Stone of physics for many years and is the simplest and most abundant atom on the periodic table.

"Precision spectroscopy of hydrogen's isotopes, deuterium and tritium, continues to be of great interest to both atomic and nuclear physics," he said. "Further study of tritium, as the simplest radioactive element, also serves as an ideal system for the study of Beta decay."

Having successfully designed and used an 18-coil device to slow a supersonic beam of metastable neon atoms, the team is developing a 64-stage device to further slow and stop atoms.

The research appears in the New Journal of Physics.

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