PHYSICS: Optical Trains for Atoms

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Science  20 Jul 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5529, pp. 397b
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5529.397b

The ability to cool a cloud of atoms to such low temperatures that they form a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) and the ability to extract a coherent matter beam from this cloud promise the potential to do with atoms what can be achieved with optical lasers—interferometry, holography, scattering, and spectroscopy. However, full exploitation of the atom laser requires the development of precision atom-optic devices such as mirrors, lenses, beam splitters, and resonators. One distinguishing property of a BEC is that all of the atoms have the same magnetic moment and so experience a force in the presence of an inhomogeneous magnetic field. Under optical stimulation, the magnetic moment of the atoms can be flipped so that the force on the atoms is reversed. Bloch et al. use this effect—the switching of the force the atoms experience with optically induced transitions of the magnetic moment—to demonstrate the atom-optic equivalent devices that will help allow the manipulation of coherent atom beams with the same precision and control as that available for optical lasers. — ISO

Phys. Rev. Lett. 87, 030401 (2001).

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