An optical conveyor belt for single neutral atoms


Using optical dipole forces we have realized controlled transport of a single or any desired small number of neutral atoms over a distance of a centimeter with sub-micrometer precision. A standing wave dipole trap is loaded with a prescribed number of cesium atoms from a magneto-optical trap. Mutual detuning of the counter-propagating laser beams moves the interference pattern, allowing us to accelerate and stop the atoms at preselected points along the standing wave. The transportation efficiency is close to 100%. This optical ‘single-atom conveyor belt’ represents a versatile tool for future experiments requiring deterministic delivery of a prescribed number of atoms on demand.

Applied Physics B: Lasers and Optics