An advanced computer code is undergoing development for numerically simulating laser cooling and trapping of large numbers of atoms. The code is expected to be useful in practical engineering applications and to contribute to understanding of the roles that light, atomic collisions, background pressure, and numbers of particles play in experiments using laser-cooled and -trapped atoms. The code is based on semiclassical theories of the forces exerted on atoms by magnetic and optical fields. Whereas computer codes developed previously for the same purpose account for only a few physical mechanisms, this code incorporates many more physical mechanisms (including atomic collisions, sub-Doppler cooling mechanisms, Stark and Zeeman energy shifts, gravitation, and evanescent-wave phenomena) that affect laser-matter interactions and the cooling of atoms to submillikelvin temperatures. Moreover, whereas the prior codes can simulate the interactions of at most a few atoms with a resonant light field, the number of atoms that can be included in a simulation by the present code is limited only by computer memory. Hence, the present code represents more nearly completely the complex physics involved when using laser-cooled and -trapped atoms in engineering applications.

A Cold Atomic Beam is shown emerging from a magneto-optical trap in a pyramidal-low-velocityintense-source configuration. The figure shows a comparison between experiment (left) and simulation (right). The images depict an area of approximately 1.5 × 1.5 cm.

Another advantage that the code incorporates is the possibility to analyze the interaction between cold atoms of different atomic number. Some properties that cold atoms of different atomic species have, like cross sections and the particular excited states they can occupy when interacting with each other and light fields, play important roles not yet completely understood in the new experiments that are under way in laboratories worldwide to form ultracold molecules. Other research efforts use cold atoms as holders of quantum information, and more recent developments in cavity quantum electrodynamics also use ultracold atoms to explore and expand new information-technology ideas. These experiments give a hint on the wide range of applications and technology developments that can be tackled using cold atoms and light fields. From more precise atomic clocks and gravity sensors to the development of quantum computers, there will be a need to completely understand the whole ensemble of physical mechanisms that play a role in the development of such technologies.

The code also permits the study of the dynamic and steady-state operations of technologies that use cold atoms. The physical characteristics of lasers and fields can be time-controlled to give a realistic simulation of the processes involved such that the design process can determine the best control features to use.

It is expected that with the features incorporated into the code it will become a tool for the useful application of ultracold atoms in engineering applications. Currently, the software is being used for the analysis and understanding of simple experiments using cold atoms, and for the design of a modular compact source of cold atoms to be used in future research and development projects. The results so far indicate that the code is a useful design instrument that shows good agreement with experimental measurements (see figure), and a Windows based user-friendly interface is also under development.

This program was written by Jaime Ramirez-Serrano, James Kohel, Robert Thompson, Nan Yu, and Nathan Lunblad of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at under the Information Sciences category.

This software is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Don Hart of the California Institute of Technology at (818) 393-3425. Refer to NPO-30595.

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
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Simulation of Laser Cooling and Trapping in Engineering Applications

(reference NPO-30595) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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