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Bye-Bye Electrons? Circuit Made From Flowing Atoms

atom circuit image

False color images of an "atom circuit" made of an ultracold sodium gas. Red denotes a greater density of atoms and traces the path of circulating atoms around the ring.

Credit: Joint Quantum Institute

Kevin Wright and colleagues at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology have made atoms flow round and round in a circuit.

The team chilled 100,000 sodium atoms until they became a Bose-Einstein condensate. A complex array of lasers enabled the researchers to trap and shape a blob of floating atoms into a torus, and another pair of lasers, one in a rotating configuration, gave the atoms enough energy to circulate as a single, coherent quantum object around the ring. The current of atoms flowed for 40 seconds, which is four times longer than in previous experiments. Wright says atomtronic circuits could be used to build ultra-sensitive gyroscopes.

The team also pinched off part of the torus with another laser, restricting the flow of atoms — the closest analogy in electrical circuits would be a Josephson junction. The development could eventually lead to "practical devices that are extremely sensitive for the detection of rotational or gravitational forces," says the University of Queensland's Matthew Davis.

From New Scientist
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Abstracts Copyright © 2011 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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