Colorado State University welcomes Steven Chu, Nobel Prize winner, who will deliver the annual Frank L. Galeener Memorial Lecture at 8 p.m. March 4 in the Lory Student Center Theatre. The address will be followed by a community reception in honor of Chu. Both events are free and open to the public.
Chu is professor of applied physics at Stanford University, a world-renowned leader in atomic physics and recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics for his development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light. His lecture, "Laser Cooling and Trapping: From Atomic Clocks to Watching Biomolecules Move, One Molecule at a Time," is intended for a general audience.
Chu’s talk will review how atoms can be cooled with lasers to temperatures of 200 billionths of a degree above absolute zero, where they can be held and manipulated with light. Laser light functions as a thick liquid, dubbed optical molasses, in which the chilled atoms are slowed to a point where they can be individually studied with great accuracy.
Atoms caught in optical molasses form what look to the naked eye like a glowing cloud the size of a pea. Previously, scientists could only control the speed of electrically charged atoms by using electric and magnetic fields. Optical molasses now gives researchers the capability to control and study electrically neutral atoms.
Results of this research have led to unprecedented studies regarding the behavior of individual bio-molecules and bio-molecular systems. Potential applications include the construction of ultra-precise atomic clocks for use in space navigation, atom interferometers to provide ultra-precise measurements of gravitational forces and atomic lasers which could be used to manufacture extremely small electronic components.
The Galeener Lecture is sponsored by the physics department at Colorado State to honor the late professor Frank Galeener, a distinguished member of the department who died in 1993.
Chu received his doctorate in physics in 1978 from Berkeley before joining Bell Laboratories, where he and two of his colleagues invented optical tweezers, a microscopic tool utilized to visualize and manipulate individual bio-molecules such as DNA. Chu has worked at Stanford since 1987, where he is the Theodore and Frances Geballe Professor of Physics and Applied Physics. Chu’s renowned research focuses on atomic physics, polymer physics and biophysics.
For more information regarding the Galeener Memorial Lecture, contact the physics department at (970) 491-6206.