Lecture: Laser cooling and BEC

A lithium magneto-optical trap in a glass cell

Course overview

Laser cooling has revolutionized atomic physics and its fathers Steven Chu, Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and William D. Phillips received the Nobel Prize in Physics 1997 for development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light.”

It enabled to reach temperatures in the mikrokelvin range in dilute atomic gases, an achievement that is a fundamental step on the way to quantum degeneracy. The latter was experimentally realized in 1995 in the form of a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) by Carl E. Wieman, Eric A. Cornell and Wolfgang Ketterle, who six year later also achieved the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Today research on quantum degenerate gases - fermions and bosons - is still an expanding field of research with many interdisciplinary links to solid state physics, statistical mechanics and even high energy physics.

In this course we will discuss the basic principles behind laser cooling of atomic gases and the most important experimental techniques related to this subject. We will also discuss selected highlights of the physics of dilute atomic Bose-Einstein condensates and degenerate Fermi gases.


In order of my personal preference…

Quantum optics basics:

  • C. Gerry, P. Knight: Introductory Quantum Optics, Cambridge University Press
  • R. Loudon: The quantum theory of light: Oxford University Press
  • M. Fox: Quantum Optics - An introduction: Oxford University Press
  • M. Scully: Quantum Optics, Cambridge University Press
  • C. Cohen-Tannoudji, J. Dupont-Roc, G. Grynberg: Atom-Photon Interactions: Basic Processes and Applications, Wiley-VCH

Laser cooling and degenerate gases

  • H.J. Metcalf, P. van der Straten: Laser Cooling and Trapping, Springer
  • L. Pitaevskii, S. Stringari: Bose-Einstein Condensation, Claredon Press
  • C.J. Pethick, H. Smith: Bose-Einstein Condensation in Dilute Gases, Cambridge University Press

Review articles (experiment)

  • W. Ketterle, D.S. Durfee, D.M. Stamper-Kurn: Making, Probing and Understanding Bose-Einstein Condensates, arXiv:cond-mat/9904034
  • W. Ketterle, M.W. Zwierlein: Makin, Probing and Understanding Ultracold Fermi Gases, arXiv:0801.2500