Atomic kaleidoscopes

The kaleidoscopic patterns formed over time by still (top) and rotating atoms cooled to hundreds of degrees below zero; atoms are densest in the red spaces and absent in the blue spaces (Photo: Physical Review A)

When atoms are formed into a ring and cooled to temperatures of hundreds of degrees below zero, how do they behave? A team of researchers from the Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT) at NUS created computer simulations that illustrated the expected behaviour of these cold atom rings to answer this question.

Over a time period of just some 15 millionths of a second, the researchers observed that the atom clouds spread and their quantum states interfered with each other, creating beautiful kaleidoscopic patterns.

The CQT team is studying these cold atom systems to look into their potential as building blocks for quantum computing or sensors. The still and rotating states of these atoms could be used to encode the ones and zeros that quantum computers run on, or to detect rotational motion.

The findings of this study were published in Physical Review A in January.