Research NewsPhysics

Bose-Einstein Condensates Display Their First Tricks

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Science  14 Jun 1996:
Vol. 272, Issue 5268, pp. 1587-1588
DOI: 10.1126/science.272.5268.1587


A year ago this month, physicists first created a Bose-Einstein condensate, a state of matter in which a cloud of trapped atoms is cooled so close to absolute zero that their quantum-mechanical waves merge. But with barely 1000 atoms in a condensate that lasted just a few seconds, the researchers could do no more than say they'd done it. Now the field is being transformed by a new atom trap that can create condensates of 5 million sodium atoms that survive for half a minute and a new technique for imaging condensates without destroying them. Several research groups are now probing the size, growth rate, optical properties, and even the viscosity of this new form of matter.