A team of UC Berkeley physicists accidentally stumbled upon
the idea of a cold storage ring while running routine experiments on a
device designed to study quantum electrodynamics and possible
applications in quantum computers. By creating supercold atoms in a
mirror cavity, the team hoped to study the interactions between light
and Bose-Einstein condensates.
Bose-Einstein condensates are neutral gas atoms cooled to a low
enough temperature so that they all fall into the same quantum state.
Quantum mechanics is the theory that energy does not have a continuous
range of values, but is, instead, absorbed or radiated discontinuously,
in multiples of definite, indivisible units called quanta.
The research shows that billions of atoms can end up in the same
place at the same time. This idea was originally proposed 80 years ago
by Albert Einstein and inspired by the previous work of Satyendra Nath
Dan Stamper-Kurn, a UC Berkeley professor of physics, led this
new quantum physics study. He and colleague Subhadeep Gupta, a
post-doctoral fellow at UC Berkeley, worked with physics graduate
students Kater Murch, Kevin Moore, and Tom Purdy to create a
Bose-Einstein condensate of rubidium atoms.
The scientists forced the condensate into a circular racetrack
two millimeters across to create a particle storage ring similar to the
accelerator storage rings of high-energy physics.
This new insight will assist in the development of sensitive
gyroscopes for use in research or navigation systems for satellites or
aircraft. A gyroscope is a spinning mass mounted on a base such that
its axis can turn freely while maintaining its orientation.
"In addition to its application as sensitive rotation sensors, it
can also lead to possible formation of new types of quantum systems, in
particular highly stable, persistent angular momentum states," Gupta
said. "Circular geometry makes more sense to detect rotation."
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