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World's tiniest mirror

Just as the path of photons of light can be directed by a mirror, atoms possessing a magnetic moment can be controlled using a magnetic mirror. Research reported in the Journal of Applied Physics investigates the feasibility of using magnetic domain walls to direct and ultimately trap individual atoms in a cloud of ultracold atoms.

"We are looking for ways to build magnetic systems that can manipulate atoms," says author Thomas Hayward of the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. "By using soft ferromagnetic materials, in the form of nanostructures, we can manipulate the material properties and direct atoms."

The researchers describe the design, fabrication and characterization of a mirror formed by the magnetic field created by domain walls within an array of undulating planar magnetic nanowires. Due to the undulation of the wires, the field is switchable. When a magnetic field is applied perpendicular to the wires, the domain walls switches on; when a field is applied parallel to the wires, the switch turns off. Essentially, the system becomes a logical mirror with 0 and 1 states.

"The next step is to drop a cloud of ultracold atoms on the mirror so that we can watch them bounce," says Hayward. Similar technology could be applied to devices that trap and confine atoms and possibly to devices that use individual atoms as qubits.

The article, "Design and Characterization of a Field-Switchable Nanomagnetic Atom Mirror" by Thomas J. Hayward, Adam D. West, Kevin J. Weatherill, Peter J. Curran, Paul W. Fry, Placide M. Fundi, Mike R. J. Gibbs, Thomas Schrefl, Charles S. Adams, Ifan G. Hughes, Simon J. Bending, and Dan A. Allwood will appear in the Journal of Applied Physics.

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Journal of Applied Physics is the American Institute of Physics' (AIP) archival journal for significant new results in applied physics; content is published online daily, collected into two online and printed issues per month (24 issues per year). The journal publishes articles that emphasize understanding of the physics underlying modern technology, but distinguished from technology on the one side and pure physics on the other. See:


The American Institute of Physics is a federation of 10 physical science societies representing more than 135,000 scientists, engineers, and educators and is one of the world's largest publishers of scientific information in the physical sciences. Offering partnership solutions for scientific societies and for similar organizations in science and engineering, AIP is a leader in the field of electronic publishing of scholarly journals. AIP publishes 12 journals (some of which are the most highly cited in their respective fields), two magazines, including its flagship publication Physics Today; and the AIP Conference Proceedings series. Its online publishing platform Scitation hosts nearly two million articles from more than 185 scholarly journals and other publications of 28 learned society publishers.

Jason Bardi | EurekAlert!
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