Freezing atoms and electrons

In a complex setup, the photon pressure from multiple laser beams slows down the motion of helium ions in a Paul trap. Credit: J. R. Crespo/O. O. Versolato/MPI for Nuclear Physics

One of the (many) challenges in building a working quantum computer is to make it operate at temperatures closed to the absolute 0. This is needed because as temperature rises there is more instability and the waves (representing "values") cannot be maintained in a coherent state.

This is why this news coming from the university of Sussex is so interesting. 

Researchers have been able to use microwave radiation to freeze a charged atom to one millionth degree of absolute zero (-273,15 C).

So far atoms have been cooled down (when you are serious about cooling, that is trying to approach the absolute 0) by using laser beams. There are different ways of doing this but basically the trick is to have the beams interacting with the atoms in such a way to force them to lose its momentum by scattering/emitting photons and this momentum loss equals a decrease of energy level, lower speed and to their cooling down.

Organising a "fridge" by using laser is quite complicated. The researchers have discovered that they can achieve the same result by using microwaves and have published an article on Physical Review Letters.  Something to read if you are really an expert in the field...

The "so what", however, is interesting. Using this method we can expect a simplification in the development of quantum devices, like quantum sensors and quantum computers.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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