University of Otago is Grabbing Atoms ~ Path to Quantum Technologies?

Otago physicists grab individual atoms in ground-breaking experiment

Key points excerpts…

+  In a first for quantum physics, University of Otago researchers have “held” individual atoms in place and observed previously unseen complex atomic interactions.

+  A myriad of equipment including lasers, mirrors, a vacuum chamber, and microscopes assembled in Otago’s Department of Physics, plus a lot of time, energy, and expertise, have provided the ingredients to investigate this quantum process, which until now was only understood through statistical averaging from experiments involving large numbers of atoms.

“Our method involves the individual trapping and cooling of three atoms to a temperature of about a millionth of a Kelvin using highly focused laser beams in a hyper-evacuated (vacuum) chamber, around the size of a toaster. We slowly combine the traps containing the atoms to produce controlled interactions that we measure,” says Associate Professor Mikkel F. Andersen of Otago’s Department of Physics.

+  The researchers were able to see the exact outcome of individual processes, and observed a new process where two of the atoms leave the experiment together. Until now, this level of detail has been impossible to observe in experiments with many atoms.

+  Associate Professor Andersen admits the technique and level of detail can be difficult to comprehend to those outside the world of quantum physics, however he believes the applications of this science will be useful in development of future quantum technologies that might impact society as much as earlier quantum technologies that enabled modern computers and the Internet.

+  “Research on being able to build on a smaller and smaller scale has powered much of the technological development over the past decades. For example, it is the sole reason that today’s cellphones have more computing power than the supercomputers of the 1980s. Our research tries to pave the way for being able to build at the very smallest scale possible, namely the atomic scale, and I am thrilled to see how our discoveries will influence technological advancements in the future,” Associate Professor Andersen says.

Source:  Universtiy of Otago.  Mark Hathaway,  Otago physicists grab individual atoms in ground-breaking experiment…

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