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New Zealand Scientists Make Atom-Trapping Breakthrough 101

Posted by timothy
from the gotta-keep-'em-separated dept.
Mogster writes with this news from New Zealand: "'University of Otago scientists have made a 'major physics breakthrough' with the development of a technique to consistently isolate and capture a fast-moving single atom. A team of four researchers from the university's physics department are believed to be the first to isolate and photograph the Rubidium 85 atom.' Good to see Kiwis following in Rutherford's footsteps."
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New Zealand Scientists Make Atom-Trapping Breakthrough

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  • Method (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cappp (1822388) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @11:16PM (#33707716)

    The three-year project used laser cooling technology to slow a group of atoms, before a laser beam, or "optical tweezers", isolated and held one atom

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by nacturation (646836) *

      Next time, could you just post the entire article so that we don't have to read multiple posts by people who choose to quote only one line at a time while adding no additional value?

      • by socsoc (1116769)
        Next time could you read motherfucking TFA yourself? That's preferable to having to see replies from idiots denigrating other idiots who quoted random lines without additional value, without adding any of their own.
      • by cappp (1822388)
        Ouch. I posted the one line because I felt it added value, namely the actual method used that the summary neglected to include. I read 5 different articles covering the story and chose the most detailed one to slap up here - which points really to the scarcity of technical detail if nothing else. I'm sorry you don't like the contribution but claiming it adds no value is going a step too far.
        • Ouch. I posted the one line because I felt it added value, namely the actual method used that the summary neglected to include. I read 5 different articles covering the story and chose the most detailed one to slap up here - which points really to the scarcity of technical detail if nothing else. I'm sorry you don't like the contribution but claiming it adds no value is going a step too far.

          It would have been great had you included something along those lines. I tend to actually RTFA, so just slapping up a single line with no context around why you're quoting it doesn't add value for me. I know, it's not all about me but I can only speak for myself when sharing my opinion.

          • by cappp (1822388)
            You're of course right and a little context would have been helpful, I should have spent the extra 20 seconds and thrown a sentance in there rather than relying solely on a one word title.

            Incidentally, reading the article totally defeats the point - how are we supposed to work ourselves into a frenzy of anti-(somewhat tangentially related topic) if we bind ourselves with facts? For shame good sir, for shame.
      • by fishexe (168879)

        Next time, could you just post the entire article so that we don't have to read multiple posts by people who choose to quote only one line at a time while adding no additional value?

        Clearly, someone thought it had value. It got modded to (Score:3, Interesting).

        • Clearly, someone thought it had value. It got modded to (Score:3, Interesting).

          There's a ringing endorsement if I've ever seen one.

  • by Penguinshit (591885) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @11:25PM (#33707748) Homepage Journal
    I'll believe it when I can see it (or determine its velocity).
  • by countertrolling (1585477) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @11:28PM (#33707764) Journal

    Because I couldn't see it..

  • Isolating and capturing an atom is easy - like herding sheep.
  • by ckeo (220727) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @11:41PM (#33707800)

    When they can pluck one out of mid air with a pair of chop sticks, i'll be impressed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 26, 2010 @11:51PM (#33707852)

    What is important about this experiment is how often they can trap a single atom. Previous experiments have shown that creating a small trap volume and using atomic collisions allows for a 50% probability. (This is the regime our experiment is currently trying to work in) Their work showed that it is possible to exceed this using fairly simple techniques. There are also more complicated theoretical methods which various groups are trying to demonstrate as well. I believe they have reported >80% probability of loading a single atom into their trap. This increased probability is not completely necessary for scaling atomic quantum computers but will help. If they can achieve a probability close to 1 then this would help greatly. For instance with the old well established techniques I would make an array of 100 trapping sites but only expect to have 50 usable qubits loaded during any one experiment. This would now give us the ability to say we have more than 80 usable qubits for every experiment, which just helps scaling the quantum computer to useful sizes easier.

    I would be quite surprised if this was the first time that single Rb 85 atoms had been trapped and imaged. We have been using single Rb 87 atoms in our experiments since about 2005 and other groups had been doing it before us. Switching to Rb 85 would take us about 15 minutes as the only required change is a frequency change of ~2 GHz for our two cooling lasers.

  • by Ironchew (1069966) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @11:53PM (#33707858)

    This seemed to be geared toward quantum computing, but I was wondering if the same technique could isolate a significant mass of highly energetic matter, e.g. newly created antimatter? We've only been able to capture an almost negligible fraction of that so far.

    • by Interoperable (1651953) on Monday September 27, 2010 @12:59AM (#33708168)

      The work is related to trapping single, neutral atoms efficiently. Trapping techniques for bulk quantities of charged particles tend to be simpler. Slowing down energetic particles is probably tough, but doesn't relate to this research.

    • by Ruie (30480)

      This seemed to be geared toward quantum computing, but I was wondering if the same technique could isolate a significant mass of highly energetic matter, e.g. newly created antimatter? We've only been able to capture an almost negligible fraction of that so far.

      This is not because it is hard to capture, but because it tends to annihilate upon contact with ordinary matter. So if you put it into a trap it will slowly vanish unless your vacuum is very pure.

      Not to say it is not used - Tevatron [wikipedia.org] collides proton and antiproton beams, so not only it produces significant quantity of antimatter, but it is used as a consumable for researching something else (which is likely Higgs)

  • McBain! (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by Yvan256 (722131)

    Up and at them!

  • Pictures or it didn't happen.

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Monday September 27, 2010 @12:13AM (#33707958) Homepage Journal
    You can just lure the atoms into a t rap with a trail of candy.
  • Do it with a Photon and I'll be impressed.

  • Reminds me of an RL version of JezzBall - my, the Windows Entertainment Pack games were/are addictive little buggers. :)

  • by SharpFang (651121) on Monday September 27, 2010 @03:53AM (#33708810) Homepage Journal

    All that experience isolating and capturing a single fast-moving sheep gotta pay up...

  • > New Zealand Scientists Make Atom-Trapping Breakthrough

    As a proud loud Australian I claim Mikkel Andersen as Australia's favourite son! Come on over matey. I also claim "Lord of the Rings" as one of Australia's greatest movies and "Crowded House" as our greatest band (hey... nothing since the 80's sounds right anyway). And that Kiwi who discovered the relationship between steroids and lung activation that must have saved a million premature babies... we own him too.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010 [guardian.co.uk]

  • So am I right in thinking the principle underlying this is to do things that reduce the probability the atom will be "kicked" someplace else? What confuses me here is if you're constraints are that strong in terms of uncertainty, surely you also have the same constraints (i.e. the system is almost "classical" if you're approaching a certainty of 1) in your qbits with respect to the usefulness of the quantum calculation you can perform? Did I miss something important here? (It wouldn't be the first time).
    • by ultracool (883965)
      I'm not really sure what your question is, but I'll try to answer it! To make a quantum computer, you need a number of qubits. If you want to use atoms as qubits, you need to be able to repeatably trap, hold, and interrogate them over "long" timescales. If you could only trap a single atom 50% of the time, your computer would be very inefficient if you have, say, 30 qubits (ie. an array of 30 single atoms). By pushing this up to 83%, efficiency improves dramatically. Also, they can probably do better than 8
      • by Burnhard (1031106)
        I thought the point of a quantum computer was the superposition with all of the other qbits, not the fact that it's just an atom. What I was trying to understand was whether the "state" (which property of the atoms are you going to interrogate, or entangle with the other atoms) still has the same freedom to vary given you've almost nailed the property "position" to classical certainty (i.e. close to 1).
        • by ultracool (883965)
          So this paper is about that very first step of actually making the qubits. One atom = one qubit. In this case, the "state" would likely be the atom's spin orientation. Spin and position are not connected by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Position and momentum are linked, as are energy and time.

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