Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Quantum gas microscope offers glimpse of quirky ultracold atoms

Research creates a readout system for quantum simulation and computation

Physicists at Harvard University have created a quantum gas microscope that can be used to observe single atoms at temperatures so low the particles follow the rules of quantum mechanics, behaving in bizarre ways.

The work, published this week in the journal Nature, represents the first time scientists have detected single atoms in a crystalline structure made solely of light, called a Bose Hubbard optical lattice. It's part of scientists' efforts to use ultracold quantum gases to understand and develop novel quantum materials.

"Ultracold atoms in optical lattices can be used as a model to help understand the physics behind superconductivity or quantum magnetism, for example," says senior author Markus Greiner, an assistant professor of physics at Harvard and an affiliate of the Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms. "We expect that our technique, which bridges the gap between earlier microscopic and macroscopic approaches to the study of quantum systems, will help in quantum simulations of condensed matter systems, and also find applications in quantum information processing."

The quantum gas microscope developed by Greiner and his colleagues is a high-resolution device capable of viewing single atoms -- in this case, atoms of rubidium -- occupying individual, closely spaced lattice sites. The rubidium atoms are cooled to just 5 billionths of a degree above absolute zero (-273 degrees Celsius).

"At such low temperatures, atoms follow the rules of quantum mechanics, causing them to behave in very unexpected ways," explains first author Waseem S. Bakr, a graduate student in Harvard's Department of Physics. "Quantum mechanics allows atoms to quickly tunnel around within the lattice, move around with no resistance, and even be 'delocalized' over the entire lattice. With our microscope we can individually observe tens of thousands of atoms working together to perform these amazing feats."

In their paper, Bakr, Greiner, and colleagues present images of single rubidium atoms confined to an optical lattice created through projections of a laser-generated holographic pattern. The neighboring rubidium atoms are just 640 nanometers apart, allowing them to quickly tunnel their way through the lattice.

Confining a quantum gas -- such as a Bose–Einstein condensate -- in such an optically generated lattice creates a system that can be used to model complex phenomena in condensed-matter physics, such as superfluidity. Until now, only the bulk properties of such systems could be studied, but the new microscope's ability to detect arrays of thousands of single atoms gives scientists what amounts to a new workshop for tinkering with the fundamental properties of matter, making it possible to study these simulated systems in much more detail, and possibly also forming the basis of a single-site readout system for quantum computation.

"There are many unsolved questions regarding quantum materials, such as high-temperature superconductors that lose all electrical resistance if they are cooled to moderate temperatures," Greiner says. "We hope this ultracold atom model system can provide answers to some of these important questions, paving the way for creating novel quantum materials with as-yet unknown properties."

Greiner's co-authors on the Nature paper are Waseem S. Bakr, Jonathon I. Gillen, Amy Peng, and Simon Foelling, all of Harvard's Department of Physics and the Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms. Their work was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Army Research Office, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Steve Bradt | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>