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Research News

June 24, 2016 | PFC | Research News

Ultra-cold atoms may wade through quantum friction

Theoretical physicists studying the behavior of ultra-cold atoms have discovered a new source of friction, dispensing with a century-old paradox in the process. Their prediction, which experimenters may soon try to verify, was reported recently in Physical Review Letters.

June 6, 2016 | PFC | Research News

Disorder grants a memory to quantum spins

Nature doesn’t have the best memory. If you fill a box with air and divide it in half with a barrier, it’s easy to tell molecules on the left from molecules on the right. But after removing the barrier and waiting a short while, the molecules get mixed together, and it becomes impossible to tell where a given molecule started. The air-in-a-box system loses any memory of its initial conditions.

May 23, 2016 | PFC | Research News

Quantum cycles power cold-atom pump

The idea of a pump is at least as old as the ancient Greek philosopher and scientist Archimedes. More than 2000 years ago, Archimedes allegedly invented a corkscrew pump that could lift water up an incline with the turn of a handle. Versions of the ancient invention still bear his name and are used today in agriculture and industry.

May 10, 2016 | Research News

Novel gate may enhance power of Majorana-based quantum computers

Quantum computers hold great potential, but they remain hard to build because their basic components—individual quantum systems like atoms, electrons or photons—are fragile. A relentless and noisy background constantly bombards the computer’s data.
 
April 28, 2016 | Research News

Atomic pairs offer platform for frigid physics

For scientists investigating the behavior of cold atoms trapped in a web of interfering lasers, two kinds of atoms can be better than one. The second species allows researchers to study more complex dynamics, like how the interactions between atoms caught in a 3-D lattice can form molecules stationed at the same site.

April 22, 2016 | Research News

Oscillating currents point to practical application for topological insulators

Scientists studying an exotic material have found a potential application for its unusual properties, a discovery that could improve devices found in most digital electronics.

Under the right conditions the material, a compound called samarium hexaboride, is a topological insulator—something that conducts electricity on its surface but not through its interior. The first examples of topological insulators were only recently created in the lab, and their discovery has sparked a great deal of theoretical and experimental interest.

March 30, 2016 | PFC | Research News

Measuring the magnetization of wandering spins

The swirling field of a magnet—rendered visible by a sprinkling of iron filings—emerges from the microscopic behavior of atoms and their electrons. In permanent magnets, neighboring atoms align and lock into place to create inseparable north and south poles. For other materials, magnetism can be induced by a field strong enough to coax atoms into alignment.

March 16, 2016 | PFC | Research News

Rogue rubidium leads to atomic anomaly

The behavior of a few rubidium atoms in a cloud of 40,000 hardly seems important. But a handful of the tiny particles with the wrong energy may cause a cascade of effects that could impact future quantum computers.

Some proposals for quantum devices use Rydberg atoms—atoms with highly excited electrons that roam far from the nucleus—because they interact strongly with each other and offer easy handles for controlling their individual and collective behavior. Rubidium is one of the most popular elements for experimenting with Rydberg physics.

February 26, 2016 | PFC | Research News

Characterizing quantum Hall light zooming around a photonic chip

When it comes to quantum physics, light and matter are not so different. Under certain circumstances, negatively charged electrons can fall into a coordinated dance that allows them to carry a current through a material laced with imperfections. That motion, which can only occur if electrons are confined to a two-dimensional plane, arises due to a phenomenon known as the quantum Hall effect.

February 8, 2016 | PFC | Research News

Nanoscale cavity strongly links quantum particles

Scientists have created a crystal structure that boosts the interaction between tiny bursts of light and individual electrons, an advance that could be a significant step toward establishing quantum networks in the future.

January 6, 2016 | PFC | Research News

Beating the heat

Harnessing quantum systems for information processing will require controlling large numbers of basic building blocks called qubits. The qubits must be isolated, and in most cases cooled such that, among other things, errors in qubit operations do not overwhelm the system, rendering it useless. Led by JQI Fellow Christopher Monroe, physicists have recently demonstrated important steps towards implementing a proposed type of gate, which does not rely on super-cooling their ion qubits.

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