Dr. Marin Pichler makes Goucher the coldest place in Maryland

Release date: July 31, 2009

Usually only found at premier research universities, Dr. Pichler has been defying the odds since 2002 by building a magneto-optical trap (or MOT), to trap and cool atoms to ultracold temperatures, right here at Goucher College.  The trap is shown below, along with his 2007 summer research student Mattie Whitmore ('08).  Other students who have helped Dr. Pichler build his MOT include Joe Porembski ('07), Myrrha Andersen ('07), Daniel Barker ('08), Michael Garmin ('11), and David Hall ('11).

Today, Dr. Pichler and David Hall (his summer research assistant) made the first successful trapping of atoms with this MOT.   Pictured below, the little white spot (arrowed) is actually a few hundred million trapped Cesium atoms.   

Using magnetic fields to contain the atoms, and specially-tuned lasers to cool them down, these atoms are sitting at a temperature around 100 micro-Kelvin, or one-ten-thousandth of a degree above absolute zero.  This tiny spot was the coldest place in Goucher, and probably the entire eastern seabord!  Here are David and Dr. Pichler celebrating.

David plans to keep working with Dr. Pichler during the Fall 2009 semester as he tries to trap Potassium atoms in the MOT.