With love to the cosmos

Our experimental physics team, Robert, Ottó, Jens and formerly Romain achieved a major breakthrough point in the lab! They are experimenting with the Bose-Einstein condensate, the coldest state of matter.

Friday, 25 May, they have reached a long-standing goal in the lab: to see clear signals from single atoms in our optical lattices. It took many years of hard work from the whole lab team to achieve this result. With the improved atom microscope, new doors are opened to the team for research on the interactions between multiple atoms, where quantum physics play a central role.

Atom heart from ScienceAtHome

To make this image, we create the world’s coldest state of matter (a Bose-Einstein condensate) and hold it floating in the vacuum with two powerful laser beams. Then we project an image of a heart into the cloud (a bit like when the Batman logo is projected to the clouds in the hour of need) and the atoms are attracted to the light beam. In the same instance, we turn on very powerful laser beams form so-called optical lattices or light crystals. This way we pin the atoms to their position in space and they cannot move. Then follow with other laser beams of a different color, so the atoms start to fluoresce. They emit light for half a second, which we capture on an image. The heart is tiny, only 20 micrometers across, like when a millimeter is divided into 50 equal parts.

We shared a similar image about a year ago, where the same heart was projected into an atomic cloud, but now the machine has been improved such that one can easily see individual atoms, which are the small dots scattered over the image. The main differences lie in the construction of the optical lattices and more importantly, the fact that now we are able to cool the atoms while they are being imaged. This is done with so-called optical molasses.

With love to the cosmos from the ScienceAtHome lab!

If you would like to know more about our lab and the Bose-Einstein condensate, join Ottó on a guided tour in our lab!


With love to the cosmos