Research NewsPhysics

First Atom Laser Shoots Pulses of Coherent Matter

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Science  31 Jan 1997:
Vol. 275, Issue 5300, pp. 617-618
DOI: 10.1126/science.275.5300.617a

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The word laser has taken on a new meaning: a beam of atoms marching in quantum lockstep, like the photons of a light laser. Two years ago, physicists achieved the crucial starting point for an atom laser, which could aid everything from atomic clocks to chipmaking, when they created an exotic brew of atoms all merged in a single quantum state. Now, a group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reports in this issue (p. 637) that they have shaped this “Bose-Einstein condensate” into pulses, each one a single, coherent “matter wave.”