Monday, 27 September 2010

New Zealand physicists make a major breakthrough

Exciting news from Dunedin today, as several news agencies report that University of Otago scientists have made a "major physics breakthrough". The Dunedin-based scientists are the first in the world to consistently isolate and capture a single atom, and the first to take its photograph. The atom is Rubidium 85.

Their discovery has defied accepted science and might help turn the building blocks of life into ultrafast quantum-logic computers, which are still being developed. Mikkel Andersen, Tzahi Grunzweig, Andrew Hilliard and Matt McGovern started work on the project three years ago. They captured their first atom on January 26, but took another four days to accept what had happened.

In their step towards creating what they call a "kind of atomic romance", a team used laser cooling technology to slow a group of atoms, before a laser beam, or "optical tweezers", isolated and held one atom. "What we have done moves the frontier of what scientists can do and gives us deterministic control of the smallest building blocks in our world." Dr Mikkel Andersen said.

"Our method provides a way to deliver those atoms needed to build this type of computer, and it is now possible to get a set of ten atoms held or trapped at the one time [...] You need a set of 30 atoms if you want to build a quantum computer that is capable of performing certain tasks better than existing computers, so this is a big step towards successfully doing that."

Sources: &

1 comment:

  1. I'm usually not much of a science enthusiast, but this is fascinating!