26 Jul 2018

Mingyu and Craig trapped and, for the first time, laser cooled radium ions! The image shows one of the first trapped and laser cooled radium ions from our lab - yes, that is a picture of a single radium atom. Radium is famously radioactive, but the great scientific value is the high mass of the nucleus and its large octupole deformation. The special nucleus allows us to study nuclear physics as well as particle physics with our trapped radium ions. Because the atom has not been laser cooled there are a lot of basic electronic structure measurements to make. We’ll then study the radium nucleus as well as make massive molecular ions with our trapped radium ions for precision measurements. Our ion trap allows us to simultaneously load and trap radium and strontium ions, providing a platform to explore both species and the richness that comes with trapping and laser-cooling two alkaline earth atoms.

Working with a radioactive material in a modest research laboratory requires special techniques and tools. Our effort greatly benefited from much specialized equipment that comes from collaborations with UCLA and UC Berkeley. We are particularly grateful for the time-of-flight mass spectrometer that was designed and developed by Christian Schneider and the Einzel lenses and trap designed by Dave Hucul