Research Article

A Bose-Einstein Condensate of Metastable Atoms

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Science  20 Apr 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5516, pp. 461-464
DOI: 10.1126/science.1060622

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We report the realization of a Bose-Einstein condensate of metastable atoms (helium in the lowest triplet state). The excitation energy of each atom with respect to the ground state is 20 electron volts, but inelastic processes that would destroy the sample are suppressed strongly enough in a spin-polarized sample to allow condensation. Our detection scheme takes advantage of the metastability to achieve detection of individual atoms as well as of the decay products of inelastic processes. This detection opens the way toward new studies in mesoscopic quantum statistical physics, as well as in atomic quantum optics.

  • * Present address: Laser Cooling and Trapping Group, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Gaithersburg, MD 20899, USA.

  • Present address: R&D Laboratory, GN NETTEST Photonics, Boı̂te Postale 39, F-78160, Marly le Roi, France.

  • Present address: Bayer Central Research Laboratory, D-51368 Leverkusen, Germany.

  • § To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: alain.aspect{at}

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