YORK UNIVERSITY SCIENTISTS CREATE "SUPER ATOM"


Winnipeg, June 15, 2004 – A team of scientists have become the first in Canada to create a Bose Einstein condensate “super atom”. A condensate is a unique form of matter consisting of a dense cloud of cooled atoms that acts as a single, super atom-like entity.

This achievement was accomplished by York University Physics postdoctoral researcher Dr. Baolong Lu and Prof. William van Wijngaarden. They have been working on this project for over 2 years.

Lasers are used to cool rubidium atoms to a temperature less than 100 nanoKelvins which is “about 10 billion times colder than on the coldest winter day” says van Wijngaarden. About one million atoms are trapped in an ultrahigh vacuum using magnetic fields. This prevents the atoms heating up due to collisions with other gas molecules.

“Our ability to create a ‘super atom’ provides a significant new tool to examine fundamental physics,” says van Wijngaarden. It allows Canadian scientists to join about a dozen other leading laboratories around the world to study the theory first proposed by physicists Albert Einstein and Satyendra Bose over 70 years ago. They predicted that if a sample of atoms was cooled sufficiently, the atoms would settle into the single lowest possible energy state in the container to form a single “super atom” or condensate.

The York University scientists presented their work at the Canadian Association of Physicists Congress held this week in Winnipeg. Future plans include miniaturizing their apparatus to create an array of microtraps that may be of interest for quantum computing.

For images, please visit:
http://www.yorku.ca/wlaser/projects/projects_BEC.htm

CONTACT:

Professor William van Wijngaarden
Dept. of Physics
York University
Phone: (416) 736-2100 (x77750)
Email: wlaser@yorku.ca