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New breakthrough research by FORTH is published in NATURE: High velocity sound waves of matter for extremely fast atom circuits.

Jun 10, 2019

Scientists at the Institute of Electronic Structure and Laser (IESL) of the Foundation for Research and Technology- Hellas (FORTH) led by Dr. Wolf von Klitzing created an accelerator ring for neutral atoms that is able to accelerate Bose-Einstein condensates to speeds much faster than the speed of sound and transport them to record distances. Just like the well-known particle cruncher CERN, it accelerates particles to record energies. However, whereas CERN deals with charged particles in a kilometer-size ring, the researchers at IESL achieve hypersonic velocities with neutral atoms in a millimeter-size ring. With this discovery, a path is paved for new quantum technologies, capable of creating highly sensitive rotating and gravity sensors.

These atoms are part of Bose-Einstein condensates (a quantum-state of matter where atoms lose their individual identity and are everywhere in condensate at the same time). This way the atoms behave much more like “matterwaves” than particles. Harvesting this wave-like property they mattewaves can be used, for example to  measure tiny changes in the Earth's gravitational field, which in turn can be used to the presence of mineral, water, oil, or natural gas deposits. They are therefore very promising in the construction of ultra-small-scale quantum devices that can measure tiny forces or rotations. Such devices could one day be used to monitor the Earth's climate by measuring ground-water levels in the desert or the height and volume of the oceans. Their extreme sensitivity for acceleration or rotation could also be used for navigation purposes where GPS may fail, for example on aircrafts or ships due to malicious attacks or where it is not available such as in the depths of the oceans.

The research published recently in the journal Nature is an important step in this direction. The IESL team will use this CERN mini circular accelerator to study fundamental physics issues such as the properties of Bose-Einstein's superfluidity. In the near future, they are planning to build an atomic gyroscope of millimeter dimensions and a gravity sensor based on the particular waveguides.

The publication in NATURE: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1273-5