Quote: "What this means is, we could make a real, 3-dimensional replica of
some object. We could copy objects." Meystre said.
Sounds very like a replicator to me.
Watch out for URL wrapping. If you go to http://uanews.opi.arizona.edu/ you
can search for "atom laser" and find it.
Atom Optics Technologies Could Be Phenomenal, UA Theorist Says
Feb 1, 2001 Lori Stiles
Forty years after the invention of the laser, we carry around compact disk
Twenty years after the advent of fiber optics, we connect on the Internet.
No one's sure yet where atom optics will lead -- but the possibilities
border on fantastical.
Most of us think of optics as using matter in the form of mirrors and lenses
to direct and manipulate light. Atom optics reverses the roles of matter and
light - it uses laser light to direct and manipulate beams of atoms, or
When in 1993 Pierre Meystre and his colleagues at the University of Arizona
predicted that it is possible to combine beams of atoms just as beams of
laser light are mixed to form a new laser light beam, "it sounded crazy," he
Then in March 1999, Nobel Prize winner William D. Phillips and his group at
the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology
proved in experiments how it can be done. They coaxed ultracold atoms into
three separate waves analogous to laser-like light, then combined them to
create a new, fourth wave.
It proved that "nonlinear" systems -- where system output is not
proportional to system input -- applies in atom optics,
"Suddenly, everything we predicted worked, which was amazing," Meystre said.
"Funding for research on ultra cold atoms - which is what this is all
about - is just exploding."
Meystre is Chair of Quantum Optics at the Optical Sciences Center, and
professor of optical sciences and professor of physics at UA. His
forthcoming book, "Atom Optics," (Springer Verlag, 2001) will be the first
published on that subject.
Louis-Victor, Prince de Broglie, first postulated the concept of atoms as
waves in 1924. Just as light behaves both as waves or particles (photons),
de Broglie posited, so matter must behave as particles (atoms) or waves
(matter waves, or de Broglie waves).
This particle/wave duality may be one of the most "unsettling" aspects of
quantum mechanics, Meystre said in a lecture he gave in Germany as an
Alexander von Humboldt Prize winner in 1997.
Only in the past decade have scientists been able to study the wave
properties of whole atoms in any detail. That's because atoms must be
chilled to almost absolute zero (zero Kelvin), where they are slowed almost
to a dead stop, before they clearly exhibit their wave-like nature.
In the past five years scientists have discovered how with laser light to
cool atoms to one millionth of a degree Kelvin.
That's about one billion times colder than room temperature and one million
times colder than interstellar space, Meystre noted.
"At these extreme temperatures, the world is an utterly strange place where
our everyday common sense is useless, quantum physics rules with its
counterintuitive laws, and atoms behave as waves," he said. "At these
temperatures, the wavelength of atoms becomes as long or longer than visible
Scientists already have demonstrated basic atom optical elements such as
atomic mirrors, atomic beam splitters and atomic gratings. They also have
developed crude atom lasers, a device that pulses individual atoms into a
coherent beam of atoms in a single quantum state. (All atoms in a single
quantum state execute the exact same motion.)
Nonlinear atom optics breakthrough published in Nature, March 1999
More practical atom lasers could lead to applications in precision
nanofabrication, atom holography, and "undreamed of applications that will
come as surprises," Meystre predicts.
"We have this vision for atom optics, which is integrated atom optics --
atom optics on a chip," he said. "One problem with current atom optics
experiments is that they are really quite big. They take up a couple of
tables in the laboratory. The big push is to do atom optics on the cheap, as
electronics is done on the cheap," by guiding atoms with magnetic and
electrical fields in something the size of an electronic chip.
Atom holography is another stunning idea. Instead of making an image in
light as done in conventional holography, atom optics would make the
hologram of atoms.
Atom holography would create actual replicas, rather than images of light.
"What this means is, we could make a real, 3-dimensional replica of some
object. We could copy objects." Meystre said.
"All of the individual steps to do this with nonlinear atom optics have been
demonstrated. It's just a matter of making it work all together. I think it
will happen in the next two or three years."
Quantum computing, quantum cryptography, and atom lithography are other
possible technologies that depend on reaching a deeper theoretical
understanding of the fundamental physics that governs how ultracold atoms
Extraordinary potential applications in atom optics are driven by
fundamental physics that is Meystre's research forte.
The Army, the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation,
and, most recently, NASA have awarded Meystre and his colleagues hundreds of
thousands of dollars in new research money in the past year,
The most major new grant, from the Department of Defense, established a
5-year, $5 million research consortium of Harvard, MIT, Stanford, UA and
Yale to develop novel high technology sensing devices that will make current
state-of-the-art sensors used for strategic navigation, guidance, detection
and mapping obsolete.
Meystre and UA optical sciences Professor Ewan Wright collaborate in the
consortium with other leading U.S. scientists who are pioneering atom
optics, including Stanford's Steven Chu, who won a1997 Nobel Prize for
developing techniques to cool and trap atoms with laser light.
Future "matter wave sensors" could include a new class of compact atom-laser
gyroscopes at least a million times more sensitive than current laser
gyroscopes and ultra-sensitive gravity-measuring sensors for detecting
underground tunnels and chambers or undiscovered oil and mineral deposits.
In his newest research project, funded weeks ago by the NASA Office of
Biological and Physical Research, Meystre will study how atom optics would
work in the microgravity of space.
The ultracold atoms used in atom optics are so slow-moving that gravity
pulls them to Earth. Magnetism can be used to keep beams of atoms from
falling down, Meystre said, but magnetism and electrical fields change the
properties of the atoms and degrades the "coherence," or you might say the
"cleanness," of atom beams .
Atom holography and atom lithography for nanoscale manufacturing (smaller
than a billionth of a meter) and inertial sensors that would be billions of
times more sensitive than counterpart optical devices for navigation,
tracking and guidances are examples of atom optics applications that would
best be done in microgravity.
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