A new method of shaping matter into complex shapes, using ‘twisted’ light, has been demonstrated in research at the University of Strathclyde.
When atoms are cooled to temperatures close to absolute zero (-273 degrees C), they stop behaving like particles and start behaving like waves.
Atoms in this state, which are known as Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs), are useful for purposes such as the realization of atom lasers, slow light, quantum simulations to understand the complex behavior of materials such as superconductors and superfluids, and a technique for precisely measuring atomic interferometry.
The Strathclyde study showed that when twisted light is directed at a moving BEC, it breaks up into clusters of BEC droplets that follow the characteristics of the light, with the number of droplets equal to twice the number of light twists. Changing the properties of the light beam can change both the number of BEC droplets and the way they move.
The study was published in Physical examination letters.
Grant Henderson, Ph.D. student in Strathclyde’s Department of Physics, is the lead author of the paper. He said: “By pointing a laser beam at the BEC, we can influence its behavior. When the laser beam is “twisted”, it has a helical phase profile and carries orbital angular momentum (OAM). OAM laser beams can capture and rotate microscopic particles, behaving like an optical key.
“This method of beaming twisted light through ultracold atoms opens up a new and simple way to sculpt matter into unconventional and complex shapes. It has the potential to design new quantum devices such as atomtronic circuits and ultra-sensitive detectors.”
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Grant W. Henderson et al., Control of light atomic solitons and atomic transport by optical vortex beams propagating through a Bose-Einstein condensate, Physical examination letters (2022). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.129.073902
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