Electrons have been scooting around microchips, or integrated circuits, since the 1970s.
Now, it's the atoms' turn. Physicists using fabrication techniques developed for ordinary microcircuits are creating diminutive devices that direct atom flows.
Atom chips could lead to both more-accurate missiles and more-complex atom-optics experiments (SN: 5/8/99, p. 296), researchers say. The chips might also help usher in ultrafast computers based on quantum mechanics (SN: 11/20/99, p. 334: http://www.sciencenews.org/sn_arc99/11_20_99/bob2.htm.).
Demonstrating the most versatile atom circuit so far, Ron Folman of the University of Innsbruck in Austria and his colleagues have created a device that can both store and guide a cloud of atoms. The team, led by Innsbruck's Jörg Schmiedmayer, used the smallest wires to date for atom chips, although their 10-micrometer width is not thin by electronics standards.
As described in the May 15 Physical Review Letters