Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Bose-Einstein Condensate

One of yesterday's links provides a link to this article: "About the Bose-Einstein Condensate: A New Form of Matter."

I'll try to summarize some of this -- partly to better absorb it myself.

The Bose-Einstein condensate is named after the famous Albert Einstein (of course) and the lesser known Satyendra Nath Bose. Einstein, building on the work of Bose, predicted the condensate in 1924. The condensate occurs when a group of atoms are chilled to within a few hundred-billionths of a degree above absolute zero, which is minus 273.15 degrees Celsius (minus 459.67 Fahrenheit). At that extremely low temperature, the wavelengths of individual atoms start to overlap and behave identically, thereby forming a 'superatom.'

What's this superatom good for? According to Wieman, "it has the same relation to ordinary matter as laser light has to light from a light bulb." This means that it can be used to develop an "atom laser" for shooting out streams of atoms -- exactly like a laser shooting out streams of light. This has already been done and could lead to techniques for making extremely tiny computer chips or constructing nano-devices one atom at a time.

I haven't yet figured out how shooting streams of atoms could be used to construct nano-devices, since that sounds like pretty delicate work, but I'm guessing that at these extremely cold temperatures, any "shooting" would be with very, very slow 'bullets.'

I intend -- time allowing -- to find out.


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