University of Amsterdam / Schixel
- Scientists have turned a special phase of matter into a “material laser” that can work forever.
- It is a Bose-Einstein condensate, a cloud of connected particles that act together.
- Researchers are feeding new atoms into the laser using a specially designed system.
IN new study, scientists have discovered a special laser made with Bose-Einstein condensate that can work forever. The secret is to manipulate the atoms themselves to behave like closed waves, a principle that underlies quantum mechanics. A team of physicists from the University of Amsterdam, mostly from the Van der Waals-Zeeman Institute, conducted this study on the nature and duration of atomic lasers. They published their findings on June 8 in the journal nature.
Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) is a special phase of matter in which atoms combine into a homogeneous turbid mass that acts as one body. Researchers need to specifically treat atoms both to enter the BEC state and to stay there, but matter has special properties while in this phase. BECs are usually induced by taking very rare gases and cooling them, so their interactive properties are further reduced. At this point, the branches between the atoms begin to express themselves on a macroscopic level. This is how BEC is formed.
Technically, classic lasers use light energy, not so-called “matter.” The material laser would unlock applications for which the traditional laser is simply not good, in the same way that the traditional laser itself was an improvement over ordinary light; everything is repeated in the sciences. And while until now there was only a pulsed BEC laser, scientists from this project point out that this was also a point on the road to a continuous traditional laser. And now they say they have broken the barrier to a continuous matter laser.
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But how? It takes a lot of energy and maintenance to keep BEC in this state. First, the BEC must remain almost ‘supercooled’, which means that it must be lowered to the freezing point without becoming hard; and second, it must be filled with new atoms to replace those that fuse into molecules and fall out of the cloud. It is common to use lasers to slow down atoms to a supercooled range, but light itself is risky for the BEC cloud. This is one of the obstacles to commercializing BEC or using it on a large scale – they are expensive in terms of energy and resources. Or are they?
“Here we demonstrate the creation of a [continuous wave Bose-Einstein condensate] which can go on indefinitely, ”the team said writes in their newspaper. “Our experiment includes both ingredients, profit and continuous supply. The central part of the experiment consists of a large “tank” that is constantly being filled [strontium] atoms and this contains a small and deep “dimple” trap in which BEC is created. The gas in the tank is constantly cooled by a laser and exchanges atoms and heat with the gas with dimples. “
Their intelligent design, which uses more space and a second laser, allows atoms to sift around and cool and replenish in a more natural process. This keeps the supply of atoms almost constant and allows the BEC laser to continue to work. The pulsation of the past has finally become continuous.
“This demonstration to prove the principle provides a new, hitherto missing part of atomic optics, allowing the construction of continuous devices with coherent matter, wave,” the team concluded. In other words . . . Let’s do this thing.
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