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MAIUS-2 mission has FBH lasers on board


Lasers will be used to coherently manipulate and detect the rubidium and potassium atoms

The MAIUS-2 mission rocket was launched into space on December 2, 2023 from Kiruna, Sweden. On board, are 75 experiments in which compounds of so-called Bose-Einstein condensates, based on rubidium and potassium atoms, will be investigated.

Laser modules developed and manufactured by the Ferdinand-Braun-Institut will play an important role in controlling and manipulating the atoms under extreme conditions.

A Bose-Einstein condensate is an extreme state of matter in which the atoms of an ultra-cold gas cloud are in a common quantum mechanical state. This ensemble of ultra-cold atoms is described by a spatially extended matter wave, which is used to perform interference experiments that bear a resemblance to optical interference experiments.

During the five-and-a-half-minute flight in zero gravity, the Bose-Einstein condensates are used to measure accelerations and forces as well as the interaction between the ultra-cold atoms of the condensates with high precision. Zero gravity makes it possible to achieve particularly low temperatures that are unattainable on Earth. Among other things, the researchers expect that this will lead to a deeper understanding of the fundamental forces of nature. Space-based atom interferometers also offer promising approaches for the navigation of future space probes.

Manipulating and detecting atoms with FBH laser modules

In order to create such Bose-Einstein condensates, the atoms are initially cooled and trapped using lasers and magnetic fields. The most energetic atoms are then removed from a so-called magnetic trap by exposing them to microwaves. This cools them below the critical temperature of a few hundred nanokelvins and a Bose-Einstein condensate is formed.

The laser sources developed by FBH for the experiments will be used to coherently manipulate and detect the atomic species rubidium and potassium. FBH supplied a total of ten ECDL-MOPA (Extended Cavity Diode Laser - Master Oscillator Power Amplifiers) diode laser modules from the MiLas series with emission wavelengths of 767 nm, 780 nm, and 1064 nm for the mission.

In addition, FBH has manufactured two further Distributed Feedback (DFB) laser modules for the mission. They serve as a frequency reference, with one of the modules being frequency locked to the rubidium transition and the other to the potassium transition.

These modules are based on the technology platform already used for the previous MAIUS-I mission, which successfully generated a Bose-Einstein condensate in space for the first time.

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