Anne Goodsell

The resonant interaction between light and individual atoms in a gas can make those atoms heat up, cool down, or come to a nearly-complete stop in midair. With the technique of laser cooling, we can slow atoms from speeds of hundreds of meters per second to just a few centimeters per second. We are studying how electric fields can steer, manipulate, or capture these slow, laser-cooled atoms. At Middlebury, we have built our atom trap and are working toward launching and re-exciting our cold atoms. I will report our current progress and describe research with highly-excited atoms, in “Rydberg” states, which are strongly influenced by electric fields. That influence makes these atoms excellent candidates for being steered or captured, and I will talk about our own latest developments in planning experiments with rubidium atoms in Rydberg states. In particular, we propose a way to measure the flight paths for Rydberg states in fields that vary in space, such as the field generated by a long charged wire.

Some Rydberg states are pushed away while others are pulled toward the field source, and our calculations suggest that this effect could be observed as a first step toward measuring Rydbergatoms that follow spiraling paths around a charged wire.