Scientists show atoms act like lasers

Feb 25, 2011
ANU scientists show atoms act like lasers
Team members Andrew Truscott, Ken Baldwin, Andrew Manning, Sean Hodgman and Robert Dall. Photo by Tim Wetherell.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists from The Australian National University have developed an atom laser that behaves exactly like a light laser, opening up new possibilities in things like holograms.

The research team, led by Dr Andrew Truscott of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum-Atom Optics at ANU, have shown for the first time that a beam of helium atoms can be made to have properties similar to a beam. The study confirms, for atoms, a theory first developed for light nearly 50 years ago by the 2005 Nobel Prize winner in physics, Roy Glauber. The work was done with PhD students Sean Hodgman and Andrew Manning and the paper on their research is published today in Science.

“Lasers have a property called coherence, which means that the particles of light – or photons – all march in step,” said Dr Truscott.

“If you measure the time between the arrivals of the photons in a , you find that the photons are randomly spaced, with all arrival times between photons equally probable.

“On the other hand, incoherent sources – such as a light bulb – exhibit what is called photon bunching, where it is more likely that photons arrive within a short space of time of each other. This bunching in an incoherent light source is manifested by photons arriving in pairs – what’s known as second order – or in triplets – third order,” he said.

By making atoms extremely cold – within one millionth of a degree of absolute zero – the scientists forced the atoms to march in step and created an atom laser beam that behaves exactly like a laser beam of .

“Our experiment shows – for the first time – that the same second and third order coherence properties also apply to atoms,” said team member Professor Ken Baldwin. “This very cold atom laser also had a random distribution of arrival times with no bunching – indicating that it was perfectly coherent.”

Fellow team member Dr Robert Dall added that by warming up the atoms the research team showed that the atoms no longer behaved coherently, and they once again exhibited bunching in pairs and triplets.

“These experiments demonstrate that an atom laser behaves coherently like a light laser, and may help in developing similar applications, such as holography,” said Dr Dall.

Explore further: And so they beat on, flagella against the cantilever

Provided by Australian National University

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stealthc
not rated yet Feb 25, 2011
lookup saser, so even vibrations of atoms can be coherent. Is it possible to combine the two together without disrupting the coherence of the atoms?
wiyosaya
not rated yet Feb 25, 2011
This sounds like the same phenomena that is observed in Bose-Einstein condensates. How does this differ from that phenomena and what is "new" about this discovery that we do not already know? It seems that one might have been able to derive this from knowledge of Bose-Einstein condensates, or is this simply the "first experimental evidence" of atoms behaving in exactly this way?
TheWalrus
4.5 / 5 (2) Feb 25, 2011
This sounds like the same phenomena that is observed in Bose-Einstein condensates. How does this differ from that phenomena and what is "new" about this discovery that we do not already know? It seems that one might have been able to derive this from knowledge of Bose-Einstein condensates, or is this simply the "first experimental evidence" of atoms behaving in exactly this way?


In a Bose-Einstein condensate, the mass of atoms behaves as a single particle or wave. You cannot distinguish individual atome It is a distinct form of matter. The atom laser allows individual atoms (or pairs or triplets) of atoms to be distinguished from the entire mass of atoms.
Dingdongdog
3 / 5 (2) Feb 26, 2011
Perhaps the major application will be in particle beam weapons — considering where most government R and D money is going these days. Next step, the phaser and photon blasters on the Star Ship Enterprise.
Sonhouse
not rated yet Feb 26, 2011
Perhaps the major application will be in particle beam weapons � considering where most government R and D money is going these days. Next step, the phaser and photon blasters on the Star Ship Enterprise.

How do you plan to attack a ship with 0.000001 degree atoms? It seems to me as soon as it hits something you can write off any coherence. And good luck with that Hologram stuff.
electrodynamic
not rated yet Mar 08, 2011
By making atoms extremely cold within one millionth of a degree of absolute zero the scientists forced the atoms to march in step and created an atom laser beam that behaves exactly like a laser beam of photons.

From above. How much so because exactly is pretty exacting. Can it be reflected , or focused with a lens?