A low contrast nanosecond laser pulse with relatively low intensity (3 × 10<sup>16</sup> W cm<sup>–2</sup>) was used to enhance the yield of induced nuclear reactions in advanced solid targets. In particular the "ultraclean" proton-boron fusion reaction, producing energetic alpha-particles without neutron generation, was chosen. A spatially well-defined layer of boron dopants in a hydrogen-enriched silicon substrate was used as target. The combination of the specific target geometry and the laser pulse temporal shape allowed enhancing the yield of alpha-particles up to 10<sup>9</sup> per steradian, i.e 100 times higher than previous experimental achievements. Moreover the alpha particle stream presented a clearly peaked angular and energy distribution, which make this secondary source attractive for potential applications. This result can be ascribed to the interaction of the long laser pre-pulse with the target and to the optimal target geometry and composition.
Research interest in designing sources of cold atoms has significantly increased during the past ten years with the development of suitable laser sources for magneto-optical trapping and the further mastering of evaporative cooling in order to achieve Bose-Einstein condensation. The magneto-optical trap is now viewed as a standard research facility worldwide and has opened up many new exciting research directions in atomic physics. One area of interest is that of combining spherical microcavities with cold atomic sources in order to achieve efficient photon exchange between the cavity and atom for further understandings of cavity quantum electrodynamics. This could eventually lead to atom entanglement via photon exchange which would have implications for quantum logic design. However, initial attempts to achieve such interactions have been hindered by inadequate control and manipulation of the cold atom source. Here, we present work on designing and building an ultra-stable source of magneto-optically cooled rubidium atoms with a temperature in the tens of microKelvin range. We discuss the different cooling mechanisms involved in the process and present a suitable experimental arrangement including details on the ultra-high vacuum chamber, the laser systems being used and the source of rubidium vapour. Finally, we discuss some future direction for the research including the diffraction of atoms from gratings and micron-sized objects and the parameter control of the cloud of atoms.