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


Otago researchers gain control over single atoms


Otago researchers gain control over single atoms

University of Otago physicists have found a way to control individual atoms, making them appear wherever they want them to.

The accomplishment, by a team of six from Otago’s Physics Department, follows an international breakthrough in 2010 when they isolated and captured a neutral rubidium-85 atom, and then photographed it for the first time.

Lead Otago researcher Dr Mikkel Andersen says their results may be beneficial in the future development of a wide range of technologies, including incredibly fast quantum computers for calculations of extreme complexity.

“Time will tell what the applications will be. It is likely the main applications will be in technologies we have not yet thought about.”

To achieve their successes, the team uses seven lasers, with components from compact disc players, and precision mirrors.

They work in an air-conditioned laboratory from which as many kinds of “noise” – electromagnetic, sound, temperature contrasts – that can affect the equipment and results have been minimised or eliminated using “Kiwi ingenuity”.

Dr Andersen says laser light is the key.

“We cool the atoms, hold them, change how they affect each other and make them visible by shining laser light, with different frequency and intensity, on them. We make repeated use of the phenomenal degree of control one can have over the frequency of laser light, which is a truly astounding feature of lasers.

“The ‘Kiwi ingenuity’ is how we circumvented the fact that we do not have a low-noise laboratory as would usually be considered a necessity for experiments like ours. Naturally, finding out how to do things that have never been done before involves lots of hard work.”

The tables on which the experiment has been built float on air, one way of keeping down the “noise”, he says.

Dropping the temperature of the atom to almost absolute zero (minus 273 degrees Celsius), eliminates its “random wobbling”, allowing it to reach a quantum state with high purity.

“This represents the ultimate control over individual atoms.

“We are pushing the boundaries for the level of control that scientists can have over microscopic systems. Technical revolutions our society has undergone in past decades largely, if not entirely, originate from being able to control systems at a smaller and smaller scale.

“This has been a long journey. This is what we have been trying to get to for 10 years,” Dr Andersen says.

The Marsden Fund supported the research with $717,391 over three years. The team’s findings are about to appear in Physical Review A, Rapid Communications.

The next steps are investigations of how two atoms being brought together can exchange properties, and building molecules in particular quantum states from individual atoms.

The other members of Dr Andersen’s team are Dr Pimonpan Sompet, Dr Yin H Fung, Dr Eyal Schwartz, Matt Hunter and Jindaratsamee Phrompao. They also collaborate with Massey University’s Professor Joachim Brand.

© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Statistics: Business Research And Development Up 29 Percent

Computer services and machinery manufacturing firms led the way in an almost 30 percent lift in business spending on research and development (R&D) in 2016, Stats NZ said today. Businesses spent $1.6 billion on R&D in 2016, up $356 million (29 percent) from 2014. More>>


China Shopping: NZ-China FTA Upgrade Agreed Among Slew Of New Deals

New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English and China Premier Li Keqiang signed off a series of cooperation deals spanning trade, customs, travel and climate change and confirmed commencement of official talks on an upgrade to the nine-year old free-trade agreement between the two countries. More>>


Media: TVNZ Flags Job Cuts To Arrest Profit Decline

Chief executive Kevin Kenrick said the changes were aimed at creating "a sustainable future video content business for TVNZ in an ever-changing media market." More>>


Reserve Bank: Wheeler Keeps OCR At 1.75%

Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler kept the official cash rate unchanged at 1.75 percent, as expected, and reiterated his view that the benchmark rate doesn't need shifting for the foreseeable future. More>>


Trade Plans: Prime Minister's Speech To International Business Forum

"The work to improve public services, build infrastructure, and solve social problems is possible only because we have enjoyed sustained, solid economic growth. A big reason for that is the Government’s consistent agenda of economic reform, and our determination to open up more opportunities for trade with the world." More>>


Get More From Scoop

Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news