Molecular Bose-Einstein Condensate Created in Austin

Dan Heinzen's group at the University of Texas has succeeded in generating ultracold molecules in an atomic Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). In the experiment, atoms from the condensate were combined into molecules with laser-stimulated transitions. These molecules were formed virtually at rest, and had total energies on the order of only 100 nK, making them the coldest molecules ever produced in a laboratory. Also, the width of the laser-stimulated transition was only about 1 kHz, which is 10,000 times narrower than similar transitions in a laser-cooled gas of atoms. This narrow width allowed the Texas group to measure the tiny shifts in the energy of the molecules due to their interactions with the atomic condensate. In the future, extensions of this technique could be used to produce a molecular BEC. A report of this experiment appeared in the Feb. 11 issue of Science.