Holding cold atoms near a hot surface is key to single atom sensors

Picture of a white bowl holding several hand painted easter eggs.

Enlarge / The atoms and bowl are exactly like this. Except the bowl is red and the atoms have a softer shell. (credit: Bart Everson)

Lasers? Individual atoms trapped next to hot surfaces? Lots of dense text about degrees of freedom and stuff? I have found the after life, and it is a big quantum optics experiment.

Researchers have shown how to trap and cool atoms right next to a hot surface. This sounds a bit abstract. But if we ever want to make use of ultra cold atoms in sensors, this is exactly what we need to be able to do. 

The basic idea behind these sorts of studies is that single atoms make highly sensitive probes for magnetic fields. They can be used to model complicated quantum systems to perform calculations for us. They can be used to help with quantum key distribution. There is almost nothing that cannot be done given a laser and some ultra cold atoms.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
Holding cold atoms near a hot surface is key to single atom sensors