Applied Physics

An Atom Slalom

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Science  14 Jan 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5451, pp. 193
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5451.193d

Atoms cooled in vacuum to near absolute zero display wavelike properties that allow experiments to be performed that are analogous to those for photons, such as interferometric measurements, and assemblies of cold atoms in Bose-Einstein condensates can act as atom lasers. More complex “atom optics” will require the equivalent of optical waveguides, which guide a light beam precisely to a desired point.

Müller et al. have now steered laser-cooled rubidium atoms from source to end-point along a 10-cm channel that contains three curves (right-left-right), each with a 15-cm radius of curvature. The atoms are confined by the magnetic field set up by two parallel wires carrying electrical current in the same direction. The rectangular wires, patterned by photolithography on a glass substrate, are 100 _m apart and have a cross section of 100 _m by 100 _m. The magnetic field off-center increases linearly with applied current, so the low-field-seeking rubidium atoms are confined to the central region. With a 3-ampere current flowing in the wires, they can achieve a flux of 2 × 106 atoms per second.—ISO

Phys. Rev. Lett.83, 5194 (1999).

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