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Single atoms in an optical dipole trap : towards a deterministic source of cold atoms

Frese, D and Ueberholz, B and Kuhr, S and Alt, W and Schrader, D and Gomer, V and Meschede, D (2000) Single atoms in an optical dipole trap : towards a deterministic source of cold atoms. Physical Review Letters, 85 (18). pp. 3777-3780. ISSN 0031-9007

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We describe a simple experimental technique which allows us to store a small and deterministic number of neutral atoms in an optical dipole trap. The desired atom number is prepared in a magneto-optical trap overlapped with a single focused Nd:YAG laser beam. Dipole trap loading efficiency of 100% and storage times of about one minute have been achieved. We have also prepared atoms in a certain hyperfine state and demonstrated the feasibility of a state-selective detection via resonance fluorescence at the level of a few neutral atoms. A spin relaxation time of the polarized sample of 4.2 +/- 0.7 a has been measured. Possible applications are briefly discussed.