Patterns of noise--normally considered flaws--in images of an ultracold cloud of potassium provide the first-ever visual evidence of correlated ultracold atoms, a potentially useful tool for many applications, according to physicists at JILA, a joint institute of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Described in the March 21 online issue of Physical Review Letters,* the noise analysis method could, in principle, be used to identify and test the limits of entanglement, a phenomenon Einstein called "spooky action at a distance." With entangled atom pairs, for example, the properties of one atom instantaneously affect the properties of its mate, even when the two are physically separated by substantial distances. Such tests of the basic rules of quantum physics could be helpful, for example, in efforts to design quantum computers that would use the properties of individual neutral atoms as 1s and 0s for storing and processing data.
The method demonstrated at JILA also could enable scientists to "see," for the first time, other types of correlations between atoms in fermionic condensates, a new quantum state first created by the same JILA research group, in which thousands of pairs of atoms behave in unison. And it could perhaps be applied in highly sensitive measurement techniques using beams of entangled atoms.
Laura Ost | EurekAlert!
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