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Super-cool atoms used in IC design
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Written by Gizmo   
Saturday, 07 April 2007 11:37

Steve Bush
Electronics Weekly

Micromachines could be used to trap super-cool atoms in accelerometer, gyro and clock chips.

“Over the past four years, we have done the fundamental research into atom chips, said Dr. Michael Kraft of the University of Southampton’s school of electronics. “Now it’s time to make application-oriented devices.”

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Southampton is providing the micromachining expertise, with Imperial College London handling the atomics.

“The idea is to capture cold atom clouds and manipulate them so they become useful,” Imperial’s Professor Ed Hinds told Electronics Weekly.

The atoms are neutral and cannot be controlled electrostatically. “You can control them by light,” said Hinds, “and the atoms we use are magnetic, typically rubidium, so we can push them around by changing the magnetic landscape.”

Being super-cold, wave-like behaviour dominates. And providing the controlling light is at slightly below the atom’s resonant frequency, said Hinds, optical bipolar force will naturally push it to the most intense region of a beam and trap it. Or light of lesser wavelength will eject it.

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