UCSB gets new BIFROST laser facility

Jul 3, 2018

In Norse mythology, the Bifrost is the rainbow bridge connecting the realm of the gods to Earth. At the University of California at Santa Barbara, it is also the name of a new laser facility.

If you’ve seen any of Marvel’s "Thor" movies, you might be familiar with the rainbow bridge Norse gods use to travel between the realms of Asgard and Midgard.

“In our case BIFROST stands for Broadly-tunable Illumination Facility for Research, Outreach, Scholarship, and Training,” said David Weld, an assistant professor at UCSB in the field of atomic, molecular and optical physics. He led the effort to bring the BIFROST to campus.

“In my group, we take atoms and we cool them down to very low temperatures using lasers and magnetic fields, and we use them to study experimental quantum mechanics,” Weld said.

Much like the mythic rainbow bridge, UCSB’s new BIFROST lab features light at many different frequencies. Weld said he and his colleagues are excited about a “light faucet" that allows the researchers to better study particles and structures like quantum dots and quasicrystals, which may impact future nanotechnologies.

“The future of things you might imagine are new types of quantum mechanical devices, sensors or information processors,” Weld said.

The facility cost about $600,000 to build and was funded through a special grant from the U.S. Department of Defense and the Army Research Office.

“[The funding] is only available to minority-serving institutions,” Weld said. “So the fact that UCSB is a Hispanic-serving institution was what enabled us to really apply for and receive this grant,”