According to quantum theory, things like atoms may also be conceived of as waves, and we can technically make 'atom lasers' that comprise continuous waves of matter. The difficulty is in getting these matter waves to survive long enough to be utilized in practical uses.
From news released by Interesting Engineering, a team of Amsterdam scientists has demonstrated that this is actually achievable through some tweaking of the principle that underpins the atom laser, the so-called Bose-Einstein Condensate, or BEC for short.
How this Atom Laser Can Stay on Forever
The macroscopic coherent matter waves known as Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) have transformed quantum research and atomic physics for decades. They're crucial in quantum modeling and sensing.
For example, atom interferometers in space and daring testing of Einstein's equivalence principle. However, one long-standing limitation for quantum gas devices has been the requirement to perform cooling phases in a time sequence. That is how to make them flow continuously.
To address this, scientists created an indefinite continuous-wave (CW) condensate of strontium atoms to demonstrate a continuous Bose-Einstein condensation. The coherent matter-wave is maintained by amplification of atoms from a warm bath via Bose-stimulated gain. They keep the conditions for condensation going by constantly refilling this fluid while reaching 1,000 times greater phase-space densities than earlier research.
Now, what does it have to do with this atom laser?
For starters, atom lasers use sensors. But the continuous operation is preferable for sensors because it reduces dead time and can provide greater bandwidths than pulsed operation.
In the meanwhile, sensors that use BECs benefit from their high phase-space density and unique coherence features. When these benefits are considered together, a CW atom laser beam outcoupled from a CW condensate might be excellent for many quantum sensing applications.
Continuous Atom Laser's Practical Application
Now that the researchers have created a continuous Bose-Einstein condensate, they plan to utilize the laser to generate a steady output beam of matter. If they are successful in producing lasers that can not only function indefinitely but also create steady beams, the possibilities will be unlimited.
According to the researchers, in the long run, CW atom lasers might benefit applications ranging from dark matter and dark energy investigations to gravitational wave detection, Einstein's equivalence principle testing, and geodesy studies. In the immediate term, the CW BEC provides a platform for investigating quantum atom optics and novel quantum phenomena in fueled quantum gases.
In conclusion, these researchers have achieved continuous Bose-Einstein condensation to setup an atom laser that can last forever. The resultant CW BEC may be sustained forever by employing constant gain generated by Bose-stimulated scattering and atom refilling with high phase-space flux.
"Our work opens the door to continuous matter-wave devices. Moving forwards, many improvements are possible. In the near term, the purity of our BEC can be increased by enhancing the phase-space flux loading the dimple," the researchers recommended.
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Written by Thea Felicity