Joint Physics and Optical Sciences Colloquium: Laser cooling and trapping of diatomic molecules: New tools for quantum science and precision measurements

Daniel McCarron, Yale
Friday, February 17, 2017 - 3:00pm
OPSI 307

Laser cooling and trapping have revolutionized atomic physics, enabling a huge range of advances in science and technology, from Bose-Einstein condensates and matter-wave interferometry to improved atomic clocks. In recent years, it has become clear that general methods to produce ultracold molecules would have a similarly broad scientific impact. Compared to atoms, the rich internal structures of molecules make them highly versatile tools to advance our understanding of complex quantum systems with strong interactions, to produce new quantum technologies, to control quantum effects in chemical reactions, and to realize improved precision measurements. However, despite intense interest, methods for cooling and trapping molecules have developed far more slowly than their atomic counterparts. In particular, direct laser cooling of molecules was long considered infeasible; the same rich internal structure that makes molecules useful for a wide range of applications also poses challenges once believed to be fatal to any attempt at laser cooling. Over the past several years, however, our group and others have devised and implemented methods to overcome these difficulties. Our group has demonstrated that the standard tools of atomic laser coolingÑincluding Doppler and sub-Doppler cooling, beam slowing, and (most recently) magneto-optical trappingÑcan work with molecules, in a manner very similar to the familiar cases for atoms. In this talk, I will review progress in laser cooling and trapping of molecules, and give an outlook for future directions enabled by these rapidly-developing methods.