CAREER: Optical Single Atom Detection for Nuclear Astrophysics
This award supports the development, construction, and commissioning of an optical microscope capable of imaging individual atoms that are captured inside a thin film of frozen neon. Initially, this single atom microscope will capture and count the number of magnesium atoms produced in collisions of neon and helium atoms. Detailed measurements of these rare collisions will help explain the origin and abundance of copper, silver, and other heavy chemical elements. Because the single atom microscope will increase the sensitivity of these types of measurements by at least a factor of one hundred, laboratory experiments that mimic the conditions inside of stars where these elements are produced will be possible for the first time. In parallel, the PI will develop a modular planetarium program that describes how the chemical elements are formed inside of stars. These modules will be presented within the context of a virtual tour of the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, which emphasizes how research being conducted at the Lab impacts our understanding of this process and how this research is beneficial to society. -JTS
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