Atoms on the Move

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Science  02 Feb 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5505, pp. 791
DOI: 10.1126/science.291.5505.791c

Cold neutral atoms can be moved along defined paths by means of confining potentials (created by current flowing through suitably patterned conductors) in conjunction with a magnetic field. The positional and dynamical control over such composite quantum systems should have utility in high-resolution atom-interferometry or, perhaps, in future quantum computer architectures. However, fine control of both parameters has been elusive.

Hänsel et al. have designed a modification that provides the ability to transport atoms to precisely controlled positions above a surface. The confining path formed by the single wire and magnetic field is divided up into a series of potential wells, set up by a periodic pattern of conducting wires running parallel to the central wire. Application of a modulated current to these additional wires resulted in the conveyer belt-like motion of a cloud of ∼106 trapped cold atoms with average velocity of 5.3 millimeters per second. — ISO

Phys. Rev. Lett.86, 608 (2001).

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