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Laser Lattice Creates New State of Matter

Photonics Spectra
Feb 2002
Researchers from Ludwig Maximilians Universität in Munich, Germany, Max Planck Institut für Quantenoptik in Garching, Germany, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have created a new state of matter by exposing a Bose-Einstein condensate to a 3-D optical lattice potential. In their report of the work, which appeared in the Jan. 3 issue of Nature, they suggest that the technique may find applications in atom interferometry and quantum computing.

The researchers used an 852-nm laser diode to generate a lattice of standing waves in a rubidium condensate. By turning off the trap and imaging the matter-wave interference pattern, they confirmed that increasing the optical potential leads to a phase change in the sample from a superfluid to a Mott insulator state, driven by quantum mechanical rath-er than thermal effects.

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