Toward Atom Chips

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Science  11 Feb 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5711, pp. 860-861
DOI: 10.1126/science.1107348

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As a novel approach for turning the peculiar features of quantum mechanics into practical devices, researchers are investigating the use of ultracold atomic clouds above microchips. Such "atom chips" may find use as sensitive probes for gravity, acceleration, rotation, and tiny magnetic forces. In their Perspective, Fortágh and Zimmermann discuss recent advances toward creating atom chips, in which current-carrying conductors in the chips create magnetic microtraps that confine the atomic clouds. Despite some intrinsic limits to the performance of atom chips, existing technologies are capable of producing atom chips, and many possibilities for their construction remain to be explored.