Scientists play catch… with atoms.


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Baseball may be America’s favorite pastime, but scientists in Korea have shown that there’s more than one way to throw and catch a ball. In a groundbreaking experiment, researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have used optical traps to throw and catch individual atoms. This technology could pave the way for new advances in quantum computing and atom-by-atom chemistry.

Optical traps use a highly focused laser beam to hold and move tiny objects. The researchers successfully threw chilled rubidium atoms over a distance of 4.2 micrometers at a speed up to 65 centimeters per second. They then caught the incoming atom with another trap and decelerated it until it stopped completely.

This is the first time that an atom has been thrown and caught by another trap. The researchers believe that their technology could be used to make quantum computers, which use quantum physics to solve problems too complex for classical computers. This could enable a new type of dynamic quantum computing by allowing the relative locations of qubits to be more freely changed.

In addition to quantum computing, the technology could be used to create collisions between individual atoms, opening up a new field of atom-by-atom chemistry. This could have implications for the development of new materials and the manipulation of chemical reactions at a molecular level.

The researchers also demonstrated that the atoms could be thrown through another stationary optical trap and weren’t affected by other atoms encountered along the way. This shows that the technology has potential for creating arrays of atoms.

While the experiment was a proof-of-principle demonstration, the researchers successfully created free-flying atoms about 94 percent of the time. They are now working to fine-tune the technique to get closer to 100 percent success.

In conclusion, the ability to throw and catch individual atoms using light is a remarkable achievement. This could open up new possibilities for quantum computing and atom-by-atom chemistry. The technology is still in its early stages, but it’s exciting to think about the potential implications for the future of science and technology.

WORDS: Scientific Inquirer Staff.

IMAGE CREDIT: Scientific Inquirer.

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