Laser Manipulation of Atoms and Particles

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Science  23 Aug 1991:
Vol. 253, Issue 5022, pp. 861-866
DOI: 10.1126/science.253.5022.861


A variety of powerful techniques to control the position and velocity of neutral particles has been developed. As examples of this new ability, lasers have been used to construct a variety of traps, to cool atoms to temperatures below 3 x 10-6 kelvin, and to create atomic fountains that may give us a hundredfold increase in the accuracy of atomic clocks. Bacteria can be held with laser traps while they are being viewed in an optical microscope, and organelles within a cell can be manipulated without puncturing the cell wall. Single molecules of DNA can now be stretched out and pinned down in a water solution with optical traps. These new capabilities may soon be applied to a wide variety of scientific questions as diverse as precision measurements of fundamental symmetries in physics and the study of biochemistry on a single molecule basis.

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