Monthly Archives: December 2015

24th Day of Christmas: Laboratory

This Advent during the 24 days leading up to Christmas I thought it would be fun to have a quick introduction of scientific apparatus, in particular tools used in atomic physics research. This is a way to say thanks to their hard work for our research, and a look at how many things are really needed to make a laboratory work!

Laboratory

In this final post of the advent calendar, I’d like to to showcase the laboratory itself, as a lab is much more than just a room to do stuff in.

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23rd Day of Christmas: Optical Frequency Comb

This Advent during the 24 days leading up to Christmas I thought it would be fun to have a quick introduction of scientific apparatus, in particular tools used in atomic physics research. This is a way to say thanks to their hard work for our research, and a look at how many things are really needed to make a laboratory work!

Optical Frequency Comb

As mentioned before, diode lasers are common equipment in atomic physics labs because of their versatility and usefulness (not to mention relative ease of use). More recently another type of light source emerged as an important tool for research, the optical frequency comb.

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22nd Day of Christmas: Lock-in Amplifier

This Advent during the 24 days leading up to Christmas I thought it would be fun to have a quick introduction of scientific apparatus, in particular tools used in atomic physics research. This is a way to say thanks to their hard work for our research, and a look at how many things are really needed to make a laboratory work!

Lock-in Amplifier

In atomic physics a lot of measurements involve very tiny data signals on a big background signal and likely big noise too. We have to be clever about how to set up the experiment so we can get the most out of our data signals. When we have a variable background that we control, we can use a lock-in amplifier to remove that base and amplify our measurement signal.

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21st Day of Christmas: Optical Isolator

This Advent during the 24 days leading up to Christmas I thought it would be fun to have a quick introduction of scientific apparatus, in particular tools used in atomic physics research. This is a way to say thanks to their hard work for our research, and a look at how many things are really needed to make a laboratory work!

Optical Isolator

Diode lasers are very sensitive to external feedback, meaning any part of their light that goes back into the diode. This sensitivity can be exploited to improve the laser’s properties, but when the feedback is uncontrolled, it can cause trouble, most of the time in the form of chaotic behaviour (the laser wavelength is jumping around). Since we want to have nice stable laser beam, these unwanted feedback needs to be removed, and that is done by an optical isolator. The optical isolator lets light through one way, but blocks it from returning the same way.

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20th Day of Christmas: Diode Laser

This Advent during the 24 days leading up to Christmas I thought it would be fun to have a quick introduction of scientific apparatus, in particular tools used in atomic physics research. This is a way to say thanks to their hard work for our research, and a look at how many things are really needed to make a laboratory work!

Diode Laser

After so many optical elements, I really ought to get to lasers in this series, since they make the lab go ’round (and ’round). The most common ones, I believe, are diode lasers, or semiconductor lasers. In essence they are not much different from ubiquous laser pointers, except all the effort that goes into making the source more stable, more reliable, more controllable, higher performance.

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19th Day of Christmas: Frequency Standard

This Advent during the 24 days leading up to Christmas I thought it would be fun to have a quick introduction of scientific apparatus, in particular tools used in atomic physics research. This is a way to say thanks to their hard work for our research, and a look at how many things are really needed to make a laboratory work!

Frequency Standard

Not all, but many atomic physics experiments involve precision time. It might be to measure a frequency very precisely, or to synchronise the sense of time for multiple devices so they agree on what’s being measured. This is where the frequency standard comes in. Frequency standards are devices that provide a very stable frequency/time signal to other equipment. They contain some very stable oscillator inside, and they output a very precise standard reference frequency, most often a 10MHz or 5MHz signal.

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18th Day of Christmas: Atom Source

This Advent during the 24 days leading up to Christmas I thought it would be fun to have a quick introduction of scientific apparatus, in particular tools used in atomic physics research. This is a way to say thanks to their hard work for our research, and a look at how many things are really needed to make a laboratory work!

Atom Source

There’s no atomic physics without atoms, and the sources used in the experiments are crucial parts too. As mentioned in the case of the vapor cells, alkali metals and alkali earth metals used for many experiments have the good gaseous properties: they are solid on room temperature, have relatively low melting temperature, and have high vapor pressure (a little bit of source can make a lot of gas). Common atom sources exploit these properties.

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17th Day of Christmas: Power Meter

This Advent during the 24 days leading up to Christmas I thought it would be fun to have a quick introduction of scientific apparatus, in particular tools used in atomic physics research. This is a way to say thanks to their hard work for our research, and a look at how many things are really needed to make a laboratory work!

Power Meter

Optical power meters are absolutely essential pieces of equipment around every lab that has lasers. On the one hand, laser power used in any particular experiment is one of the most important input parameter, on the other, measuring the power is a big part of doing alignment in the optical system (to get from the light to where we want it to be).

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16th Day of Christmas: Optical Table

This Advent during the 24 days leading up to Christmas I thought it would be fun to have a quick introduction of scientific apparatus, in particular tools used in atomic physics research. This is a way to say thanks to their hard work for our research, and a look at how many things are really needed to make a laboratory work!

Optical Table

Optical tables are not, strictly speaking, “apparatus”, but they are still nevertheless an indispensable part of the atomic physics laboratory and deserve a place in this advent calendar. They will be found in every single laboratory, and usually the whole experiment is built  around (well, on top) of them.

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15th Day of Christmas: Zeeman Slower

This Advent during the 24 days leading up to Christmas I thought it would be fun to have a quick introduction of scientific apparatus, in particular tools used in atomic physics research. This is a way to say thanks to their hard work for our research, and a look at how many things are really needed to make a laboratory work!

Zeeman Slower

In experimental physics, we quite often need to take a couple of intermediate steps to get from an initial system (e.g. hot, sparse atoms) to the final, desired state (e.g. cold, dense atoms to do the experiments with). The intermediate steps in that example would be successive cooling and condensing of atoms. Maybe start with an oven emitting hot atoms at around 500°C (773K), and ending up with 0.001K and lower in a Magneto-Optical Trap (even lower if continuing more advanced cooling processes). The first big step in the cooling process is helped by a device called the Zeeman slower.

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