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Optically Trapped Fermi Gases

A few hundred thousand atoms, chilled to near absolute zero, mimic the physics of other extreme systems, including neutron stars and superconductors

John Thomas, Michael Gehm

 

Figure 3. Formation and studyClick to Enlarge Image

When a cloud of atoms is chilled to a tiny fraction of a degree above absolute zero, peculiar quantum effects become manifest. Depending on the type of atom involved, the cloud can form either a Bose-Einstein condensate or a degenerate Fermi gas. The authors probe the degenerate Fermi gases they created in their laboratory using lasers to trap and cool the atoms. Such gases mimic other "extreme" physical systems, such as the highly compressed interiors of neutron stars, and may provide a scale model to aid in the quest for room-temperature superconductors.


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