Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


Otago physicists split and collide ultracold atom clouds

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Otago physicists split and collide ultracold atom clouds

University of Otago physicists have pushed the frontiers of quantum technology by developing a steerable ‘optical tweezers’ unit that uses intense laser beams to precisely split minute clouds of ultracold atoms and to smash them together.

The Otago researchers’ feat is set to enhance efforts to understand the mysterious ways that atoms interact at temperatures of less than a millionth of a degree above absolute zero. Its potential applications include new tools for probing microscopic structures or for sensors that can map minute variations in magnetic fields, says lead researcher Dr Niels Kjaergaard.

A description of their cutting-edge system is published in the April 1 issue of the US journal Optics Letters. It details an experiment in which the researchers used the technology to split a single ultracold cloud of rubidium atoms sequentially into 32 daughter clouds, spreading them out over nearly half a centimetre.

“This sort of precise control of these atoms is like being able to pull a delicate snowflake into two clean halves with your bare hands. It’s quite remarkable that we are able to manipulate such minute and fragile samples while moving them such a comparatively large distance,” Dr Kjaergaard says.

The experimental setup involves steering horizontal and vertical laser beams around through their interaction with precisely controlled travelling acoustic waves. These steerable laser beams confine and move the atoms. As well as splitting atom clouds, the system allows them to be collided.

“Tongue-in-cheek, we like to refer to our setup as the ‘Littlest Hadron Collider’. In some ways it’s the complete opposite of what is the world’s largest and most powerful particle collider, because instead of using extreme acceleration, we smash our atom clouds together at a pedestrian pace of up to a metre per second,” Kjaergaard says.

The steerable optical tweezers unit was constructed as part of Kris Roberts’ Honour’s thesis project in Dr Kjaergaard’s research group at the Jack Dodd Centre for Quantum Technology at the Department of Physics, while the control system for the acoustic waves was built by Master’s student Thomas McKellar.

“For researchers who are still students, these are quite notable achievements and I’m very proud of their work. It demonstrates the fantastic training opportunities that Otago can offer in its Physics programme,” Dr Kjaergaard says.

Kris is now a Master’s student in Dr Kjaergaard’s research group. The group’s work on the tweezers system is funded through a Marsden Fund of New Zealand grant.

QuickTime movies demonstrating capabilities of the optical tweezers unit:

• Splitting atomic clouds with laser tweezers

• 'Littlest hadron collider' at work

• The videos can also be viewed on this page: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-03/uoo-nzp033114.php

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Insurance: EQC To Double Payout, Scrap Contents Insurance

New Zealand’s Earthquake Commission may double its payout amount, scrap contents insurance and process claims through private insurers under the government’s long-running review of funding and management of the state-run earthquake insurer. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Tiwai Point (And Saying “No” In Greece)

Its hard to see how Rio Tinto’s one month delay in announcing its intentions about the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter is a good sign for (a) the jobs of the workers affected or (b) for the New Zealand taxpayer. More>>

ALSO:

Half Empty: Dairy Product Prices Extend Slide To Six-Year Low

Dairy product prices continued their slide, paced by whole milk power, in the latest GlobalDairyTrade auction, weakening to the lowest level in six years. More>>

ALSO:

Copper Broadband: Regulator Set To Keep Chorus Pricing Largely Unchanged

The Commerce Commission looks likely to settle on a price close to its original decision on what telecommunications network operator Chorus can charge its customers, though it probably won’t backdate any update. More>>

ALSO:

Lower Levy For Safer Cars: ACC Backtracks On Safety Assessments

Dog and Lemon: “The ACC has based the entire levy system on a set of badly flawed data from Monash University. This Monash data is riddled with errors and false assumptions; that’s the real reason for the multiple mistakes in setting ACC levies.” More>>

ALSO:

Fast Track: TPP Negotiations Set To Accelerate, Groser Says

Negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership will accelerate in July, with New Zealand officials working to stitch up a deal by the month's end, according to Trade Minister Tim Groser. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news