The image above represents the interference of wave patterns created by simulated atoms that have been "trapped" by intersecting laser beams. The complex shape of peaks and valleys is an example of a natural fractal pattern, a pattern that continues to reveal new details no matter how many times it is magnified. Credit: A.M. Rey/Harvard University
Physicists at Harvard University, George Mason University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have discovered new quantum effects in ultracold gases that may lead to improved understanding of electrical conductivity in metals.
In work presented at the March meeting of the American Physical Society* in Baltimore, Md., the researchers calculated the properties of an "artificial crystal" of ultracold atoms in a lattice formed by intersecting laser beams. The wave patterns in the laser light form the equivalent of row upon row of stadium seating for the atoms, an appropriate analogy given that the work was debuted during the height of college basketball’s "March Madness" tournament.
In metals like copper, two mutually exclusive types of effects tend to slow down the flow of electrons and reduce electrical conductivity, namely disorder in the crystal structure or blocking of electrons by other electrons that are already occupying a given space.
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