First Bose-Einstein condensate of erbium produced

May 22, 2012
Francesca Ferlaino in the lab

Francesca Ferlaino’s research team at the University of Innsbruck is the first to successfully create a condensate of the exotic element erbium. The Innsbruck experimental physicists hold the world record in attaining the first Bose-Einstein condensates of different chemical elements.

Ultracold quantum gases have exceptional properties and offer an ideal system to study basic physical phenomena. By choosing erbium, the research team led by Francesca Ferlaino from the Institute of Experimental Physics, University of Innsbruck, selected a very exotic element, which due to its particular properties offers new and fascinating possibilities to investigate fundamental questions in quantum physics.

“Erbium is comparatively heavy and has a strongly magnetic character. These properties lead to an extreme dipolar behavior of quantum systems,” says Ferlaino.

Together with her research group, she found a surprisingly simple way to deeply cool this complex element by means of laser and evaporative cooling techniques. At temperatures close to absolute zero, a cloud of about 70,000 erbium atoms forms a magnetic . In a condensate, the particles lose their individual properties and synchronize their behavior. “Experiments with erbium enable us to gain new insights into the complex interaction processes of strongly correlated systems and, in particular, they offer new starting points to study quantum magnetism with cold atoms,” says Francesca Ferlaino.

The young scientist was awarded the Austrian START prize in 2009 and she received an ERC (European Research Council) Starting Grant in 2010. “With attaining the Bose-Einstein condensate barely a year after we started, we have already achieved one of the most important goals of the project,” says a proud Francesca Ferlaino. “This shows the importance of grants for young scientists and how crucial the support from the University of Innsbruck and the Institute for Experimental Physics has been for me and my team.” Also Nobel laureate Eric Cornell congratulated the Innsbruck researchers: “Lovely new baby. Its parents must be very proud!”

Cesium, strontium and erbium are the three chemical elements that the physicists in Innsbruck have condensated successfully in the last few years. An important breakthrough was made by Rudolf Grimm and his research group in 2002 when they achieved condensation of cesium, which led to numerous scientific findings in the years to follow. START awardee Florian Schreck, a member of Rudolf Grimm’s research group, was the first to realize a condensate of strontium in 2009. And now Francesca Ferlaino accomplished this feat with the element erbium.

Until now a total of 13 elements have been condensated worldwide. Ten of these condensates were created by ten different international research groups. In 2001 Eric Cornell, Wolfgang Ketterle and Carl Wieman were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for producing the first Bose-Einstein condensates. The new condensate of erbium, now produced for the first time in Innsbruck, is an excellent model system for miming fascinating effects arising from long-range interaction. This type of interaction is, for instance, at the basis of complex dynamics present in nature, such as occurring in geophysical vortices, in ferrofluids or in proteins while folding.

Explore further: Team finds elusive quantum transformations near absolute zero

More information: Bose-Einstein Condensation of Erbium. K. Aikawa, A. Frisch, M. Mark, S. Baier, A. Rietzler, R. Grimm, F. Ferlaino. Phys. Rev. Lett. 108, 210401 (2012)
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.108.210401

Viewpoint: Quantum Dipolar Gases in Boson or Fermion Flavor.

Related Stories

First Bose-Einstein condensation of strontium

Nov 09, 2009

In an international first, scientists from the Institute of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI, Austria) produced a Bose-Einstein condensate of the alkaline-earth element strontium, thus narrowly ...

From three to four: a quantum leap in few-body physics

Apr 07, 2009

Scientists from the University of Innsbruck, Austria, led by Rudolf Grimm offer new insights into the extremely complex few-body problem. For the first time, the quantum physicists provide evidence of universal ...

Atoms don't dance the 'Bose Nova'

Sep 03, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Hanns-Christoph Naegerl's research group at the Institute for Experimental Physics, Austria, has investigated how ultracold quantum gases behave in lower spatial dimensions. They successfully ...

An icy gaze into the Big Bang

Mar 18, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists of the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) in Innsbruck, Austria, have reached a milestone in the exploration of quantum gas mixtures. In an international ...

Vienna physicists create quantum twin atoms

May 02, 2011

At the Vienna University of Technology, sophisticated atomchips have been used to create pairs of quantum mechanically connected atom-twins. Until now, similar experiments were only possible using photons.

Recommended for you

Fluid mechanics suggests alternative to quantum orthodoxy

Sep 12, 2014

The central mystery of quantum mechanics is that small chunks of matter sometimes seem to behave like particles, sometimes like waves. For most of the past century, the prevailing explanation of this conundrum ...

The sound of an atom has been captured

Sep 11, 2014

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology are first to show the use of sound to communicate with an artificial atom. They can thereby demonstrate phenomena from quantum physics with sound taking on ...

The quantum revolution is a step closer

Sep 11, 2014

A new way to run a quantum algorithm using much simpler methods than previously thought has been discovered by a team of researchers at the University of Bristol. These findings could dramatically bring ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rwinners
not rated yet May 24, 2012
wow. did a search on condensated and found nothing. NOTHING!! wow