Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Synthetic magnetic fields 'trick' neutral atoms into acting as if electrically charged

Date:
December 3, 2009
Source:
National Institute of Standards and Technology
Summary:
Achieving an important new capability in ultracold atomic gases, researchers have created "synthetic" magnetic fields for ultracold gas atoms, in effect "tricking" neutral atoms into acting as if they are electrically charged particles subjected to a real magnetic field.

A pair of laser beams (red arrows) impinges upon an ultracold gas cloud of rubidum atoms (green oval) to create synthetic magnetic fields (labeled Beff). (Inset) The beams, combined with an external magnetic field (not shown) cause the atoms to "feel" a rotational force; the swirling atoms create vortices in the gas.
Credit: JQI

Achieving an important new capability in ultracold atomic gases, researchers at the Joint Quantum Institute, a collaboration of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland, have created "synthetic" magnetic fields for ultracold gas atoms, in effect "tricking" neutral atoms into acting as if they are electrically charged particles subjected to a real magnetic field.

The demonstration, described in the latest issue of the journal Nature, not only paves the way for exploring the complex natural phenomena involving charged particles in magnetic fields, but may also contribute to an exotic new form of quantum computing.

As researchers have become increasingly proficient at creating and manipulating gaseous collections of atoms near absolute zero, these ultracold gases have become ideal laboratories for studying the complex behavior of material systems. Unlike usual crystalline materials, they are free of obfuscating properties, such as impurity atoms, that exist in normal solids and liquids. However, studying the effects of magnetic fields is problematic because the gases are made of neutral atoms and so do not respond to magnetic fields in the same way as charged particles do. So how would you simulate, for example, such important exotic phenomena as the quantum Hall effect, in which electrons can "divide" into quasiparticles carrying only a fraction of the electron's electric charge?

The answer Ian Spielman and his colleagues came up with is a clever physical trick to make the neutral atoms behave in a way that is mathematically identical to how charged particles move in a magnetic field. A pair of laser beams illuminates an ultracold gas of rubidium atoms already in a collective state known as a Bose-Einstein condensate. The laser light ties the atoms' internal energy to their external (kinetic) energy, modifying the relationship between their energy and momentum. Simultaneously, the researchers expose the atoms to a real magnetic field that varies along a single direction, so that the alteration also varies along that direction. In a strange inversion, the laser-illuminated neutral atoms react to the varying magnetic field in a way that is mathematically equivalent to the way a charged particle responds to a uniform magnetic field. The neutral atoms experience a force in a direction perpendicular to both their direction of motion and the direction of the magnetic field gradient in the trap. By fooling the atoms in this fashion, the researchers created vortices in which the atoms swirl in whirlpool-like motions in the gas clouds. The vortices are the "smoking gun," Spielman says, for the presence of synthetic magnetic fields.

Previously, other researchers had physically spun gases of ultracold atoms to simulate the effects of magnetic fields, but rotating gases are unstable and tend to lose atoms at the highest rotation rates. In their next step, the JQI researchers plan to partition a nearly spherical system of 20,000 rubidium atoms into a stack of about 100 two-dimensional "pancakes" and increase their currently observed 12 vortices to about 200 per-pancake. At a one-vortex-per-atom ratio, they could observe the quantum Hall effect and control it in unprecedented ways. In turn, they hope to coax atoms to behave like a class of quasiparticles known as "non-abelian anyons," a required component of "topological quantum computing," in which anyons dancing in the gas would perform logical operations based on the laws of quantum mechanics.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute of Standards and Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lin et al. Synthetic magnetic fields for ultracold neutral atoms. Nature, 2009; 462 (7273): 628 DOI: 10.1038/nature08609

Cite This Page:

National Institute of Standards and Technology. "Synthetic magnetic fields 'trick' neutral atoms into acting as if electrically charged." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091202131629.htm>.
National Institute of Standards and Technology. (2009, December 3). Synthetic magnetic fields 'trick' neutral atoms into acting as if electrically charged. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091202131629.htm
National Institute of Standards and Technology. "Synthetic magnetic fields 'trick' neutral atoms into acting as if electrically charged." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091202131629.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the industry fell under intense scrutiny. Now, small underground nuclear power plants are being considered as the possible future of the nuclear energy. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Honda's New ASIMO Robot, More Human-Like Than Ever

Honda's New ASIMO Robot, More Human-Like Than Ever

AFP (Apr. 17, 2014) It walks and runs, even up and down stairs. It can open a bottle and serve a drink, and politely tries to shake hands with a stranger. Meet the latest ASIMO, Honda's humanoid robot. Duration: 00:54 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
German Researchers Crack Samsung's Fingerprint Scanner

German Researchers Crack Samsung's Fingerprint Scanner

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) German researchers have used a fake fingerprint made from glue to bypass the fingerprint security system on Samsung's new Galaxy S5 smartphone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Porsche CEO Says Supercar Is Not Dead: Cue the Spyder 918

Porsche CEO Says Supercar Is Not Dead: Cue the Spyder 918

TheStreet (Apr. 16, 2014) The Porsche Spyder 918 proves that, in an automotive world obsessed with fuel efficiency, the supercar is not dead. Porsche North America CEO Detlev von Platen attributes the brand's consistent sales growth -- 21% in 2013 -- with an investment in new technology and expanded performance dynamics. The hybrid Spyder 918 has 887 horsepower and 944 lb-ft of torque, but it can run 18 miles on just an electric charge. The $845,000 vehicle is not a consumer-targeted vehicle but a brand statement. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins