Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NIST atom interferometry displays new quantum tricks

30.05.2007
Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have demonstrated a novel way of making atoms interfere with each other, recreating a famous experiment originally done with light while also making the atoms do things that light just won't do.

Their experiments showcase some of the extraordinary behavior taken for granted in the quantum world—atoms acting like waves and appearing in two places at once, for starters—and demonstrate a new technique that could be useful in quantum computing with neutral atoms and further studies of atomic hijinks.

The NIST experiments, described in Physical Review Letters,* recreate the historic "double-slit" experiment in which light is directed through two separate openings and the two resulting beams interfere with each other, creating a striped pattern. That experiment is a classic demonstration of light behaving like a wave, and the general technique, called interferometry, is used as a measurement tool in many fields. The NIST team used atoms, which, like light, can behave like particles or waves, and made the wave patterns interfere, or, in one curious situation, not.

Atom interferometers have been made before, but the NIST technique introduces some new twists. The researchers trap about 20,000 ultracold rubidium atoms with optical lattices, a lacework of light formed by three pairs of infrared laser beams that sets up an array of energy "wells," shaped like an egg carton, that trap the atoms. The lasers are arranged to create two horizontal lattices overlapping like two mesh screens, one twice as fine as the other in one dimension. If one atom is placed in each site of the wider lattice, and those lasers are turned off while the finer lattice is activated, then each site is split into two wells, about 400 nanometers apart. Under the rules of the quantum world, the atom doesn't choose between the two sites but rather assumes a "superposition," located in both places simultaneously. Images reveal a characteristic pattern as the two parts of the single superpositioned atom interfere with each other. (The effect is strong enough to image because this is happening to thousands of atoms simultaneously—see image.)

Everything changes when two atoms are placed in each site of the wider lattice, and those sites are split in two. The original atom pair is now in a superposition of three possible arrangements: both atoms on one site, both on the other, and one on each. In the two cases when both atoms are on a single site, they interact with each other, altering the interference pattern—an effect that does not occur with light. The imbalance among the three arrangements creates a strobe-like effect. Depending on how long the atoms are held in the lattice before being released to interfere, the interference pattern flickers on (with stripes) and off (no stripes). A similar "collapse and revival" of an interference pattern was seen in similar experiments done earlier in Germany, but that work did not confine a pair of atoms to a single pair of sites. The NIST experiments allowed researchers to measure the degree to which they had exactly one or exactly two atoms in a single site, and to controllably make exactly two atoms interact. These are important capabilities for making a quantum computer that stores information in individual neutral atoms.

Laura Ost | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/quantum/quantum_info_index.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Basque researchers turn light upside down
23.02.2018 | Elhuyar Fundazioa

nachricht Attoseconds break into atomic interior
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik

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: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>