Direct laser cooling of a symmetric top molecule

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Science  11 Sep 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6509, pp. 1366-1369
DOI: 10.1126/science.abc5357

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Laser cooling of symmetric top molecule

Experimental progress over the past few decades has led to the mastery of ultracold atomic gases. A major thrust of current research is to extend this success to ultracold molecules, which would open qualitatively new perspectives for quantum information science, precision measurement, quantum chemistry, and other fields. The internal degrees of freedom in molecules preclude immediate implementation of conventional methods. Using a specific combination of rovibronic optical transitions, Mitra et al. report direct Sisyphus laser cooling of the symmetric top molecule CaOCH3 to temperatures below 1 millikelvin (see the Perspective by Hudson). The proposed scheme for cooling is potentially applicable to a wide range of nonlinear polyatomic molecules.

Science, this issue p. 1366; see also p. 1304


Ultracold polyatomic molecules have potentially wide-ranging applications in quantum simulation and computation, particle physics, and quantum chemistry. For atoms and small molecules, direct laser cooling has proven to be a powerful tool for quantum science in the ultracold regime. However, the feasibility of laser-cooling larger, nonlinear polyatomic molecules has remained unknown because of their complex structure. We laser-cooled the symmetric top molecule calcium monomethoxide (CaOCH3), reducing the temperature of ~104 molecules from 22 ± 1 millikelvin to 1.8 ± 0.7 millikelvin in one dimension and state-selectively cooling two nuclear spin isomers. These results demonstrate that the use of proper ro-vibronic transitions enables laser cooling of nonlinear molecules, thereby opening a path to efficient cooling of chiral molecules and, eventually, optical tweezer arrays of complex polyatomic species.

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