Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Charge it: Neutral atoms made to act like electrically charged particles

01.04.2011
Completing the story they started by creating synthetic magnetic fields,* scientists from the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI), a collaboration of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland, have now made atoms act as if they were charged particles accelerated by electric fields.

Reported in the journal Nature Physics,** these synthetic electric fields make each atom in a gas act, individually, as if it were a charged particle, but collectively they remain neutral, uncharged particles. This dual personality will help researchers simulate and study fundamental electrical phenomena and may lead to a deeper understanding of exotic phenomena involving charged particles such as superconductivity, the flow of electricity without resistance, or the quantum Hall effect, used by NIST to create a standard of electrical resistance.

Some aspects of electricity are difficult to study because, although oppositely charged particles are attracted to one another, similarly charged particles are repelled by one another. To get around this, NIST physicist Ian Spielman and his colleagues realized that they could make atoms, which are typically electrically neutral, act as if they are charged particles in an electric field—extending their earlier method for making neutral atoms act like charged particles in a magnetic field.

The researchers create their synthetic electric field in an ultracold gas of several hundred thousand rubidium atoms. Using lasers, the team alters the atoms' energy-momentum relationship. This had the effect of transferring a bit of the lasers' momentum to the atoms, causing them to move. The force on each atom is physically identical—and mathematically equivalent—to what a charged particle would feel in an electric field.

So while the neutral atoms each experience the force of this synthetic electric field individually, they do not repel each other as would true charged particles in an ordinary electric field. This is analogous to an experienced group of dancers all following the moves of their instructor without getting in each other's way.

According to Spielman, this work may enable scientists to study the Hall effect, a phenomenon where an electromagnetic field can cause charged particles traveling through a conductor to experience a sideways force, which has of yet been unobserved in cold-atom systems. The work may also facilitate measurements of the atomic equivalents of electrical quantities such as resistance and inductance. For neutral atoms in synthetic electric fields, inductance is a measure of the energy that is stored as a result of the atoms' motion, and resistance is a measure of the dissipation, or energy loss, in the system. Measuring these quantities could provide insights into the properties of charged particles in analogous systems, including superconductors.

* See "JQI Researchers Create 'Synthetic Magnetic Fields' for Neutral Atoms," Dec. 15, 2009, at www.nist.gov/pml/div684/synthetic_121509.cfm.

** Y-J. Lin, R. L. Compton, K. Jiménez-García, W. D. Phillips, J. V. Porto and I. B. Spielman, A synthetic electric force acting on neutral atoms, Nature Physics. Published online March 20, 2011.

Mark Esser | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nist.gov

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Matter falling into a black hole at 30 percent of the speed of light
24.09.2018 | Royal Astronomical Society

nachricht Scientists solve the golden puzzle of calaverite
24.09.2018 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

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: Hygiene at your fingertips with the new CleanHand Network

The Fraunhofer FEP has been involved in developing processes and equipment for cleaning, sterilization, and surface modification for decades. The CleanHand Network for development of systems and technologies to clean surfaces, materials, and objects was established in May 2018 to bundle the expertise of many partnering organizations. As a partner in the CleanHand Network, Fraunhofer FEP will present the Network and current research topics of the Institute in the field of hygiene and cleaning at the parts2clean trade fair, October 23-25, 2018 in Stuttgart, at the booth of the Fraunhofer Cleaning Technology Alliance (Hall 5, Booth C31).

Test reports and studies on the cleanliness of European motorway rest areas, hotel beds, and outdoor pools increasingly appear in the press, especially during...

Im Focus: Scientists present new observations to understand the phase transition in quantum chromodynamics

The building blocks of matter in our universe were formed in the first 10 microseconds of its existence, according to the currently accepted scientific picture. After the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago, matter consisted mainly of quarks and gluons, two types of elementary particles whose interactions are governed by quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory of strong interaction. In the early universe, these particles moved (nearly) freely in a quark-gluon plasma.

This is a joint press release of University Muenster and Heidelberg as well as the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt.

Then, in a phase transition, they combined and formed hadrons, among them the building blocks of atomic nuclei, protons and neutrons. In the current issue of...

Im Focus: Patented nanostructure for solar cells: Rough optics, smooth surface

Thin-film solar cells made of crystalline silicon are inexpensive and achieve efficiencies of a good 14 percent. However, they could do even better if their shiny surfaces reflected less light. A team led by Prof. Christiane Becker from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) has now patented a sophisticated new solution to this problem.

"It is not enough simply to bring more light into the cell," says Christiane Becker. Such surface structures can even ultimately reduce the efficiency by...

Im Focus: New soft coral species discovered in Panama

A study in the journal Bulletin of Marine Science describes a new, blood-red species of octocoral found in Panama. The species in the genus Thesea was discovered in the threatened low-light reef environment on Hannibal Bank, 60 kilometers off mainland Pacific Panama, by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI) and the Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica.

Scientists established the new species, Thesea dalioi, by comparing its physical traits, such as branch thickness and the bright red colony color, with the...

Im Focus: New devices based on rust could reduce excess heat in computers

Physicists explore long-distance information transmission in antiferromagnetic iron oxide

Scientists have succeeded in observing the first long-distance transfer of information in a magnetic group of materials known as antiferromagnets.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

"Boston calling": TU Berlin and the Weizenbaum Institute organize a conference in USA

21.09.2018 | Event News

One of the world’s most prominent strategic forums for global health held in Berlin in October 2018

03.09.2018 | Event News

4th Intelligent Materials - European Symposium on Intelligent Materials

27.08.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Why it doesn’t get dark when you blink

25.09.2018 | Life Sciences

Genome Duplication Drives Evolution of Species

25.09.2018 | Life Sciences

Desert ants have an amazing odor memory

25.09.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>