Scientists make quantum breakthrough: “In an optical fibre, many modes of light can be conducted simultaneously, and they can interfere to produce a speckled pattern of light...
“We have shown that when atoms in a vacuum chamber are guided inside a laser light beam, they too can create a speckle pattern - an image of which we have captured for the first time”.
The team trapped a cloud of cold helium atoms at the focus of an intense laser beam pointed downwards at the imaging system, and then gradually turned down the laser intensity until the speckled image appeared.
“We then made the atoms even colder,” says team leader Dr Andrew Truscott, “until they behaved more like waves than particles, forming a single quantum wave called a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). When the BEC was loaded into the guide, the speckle pattern disappeared, showing that just one mode was being transmitted – the single quantum wave.”