Manipulating cold atoms
Hinds, Edward A. Sussex Centre for Optical and Atomic Physics, University of Sussex, Sussex, United Kingdom.
- Miniature magnetic guides
- Atom chips
- Quantum circuits with atoms
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
It is now routine for scientists to use laser light for cooling clouds of alkali atoms to temperatures in the range 1–100 microkelvins, and for subsequent evaporation in the dark to lower these temperatures by a further factor of 100. When held in sufficiently small traps and guides, atoms this cold can no longer be considered as classical particles following Newton's laws of motion. Instead, they behave as quantum waves that diffract and interfere with each other. It is now possible to hold cold atoms magnetically in microscopic traps or guides formed above a surface. This suggests a technology based on the controlled flow and interaction of cold atoms which may use the laws of quantum mechanics to accomplish new feats of measurement or computation. These devices are known as atom chips. At present, the chips are quite primitive, but even so they are generating great excitement because the idea has immense potential.
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