A new experiment gives rubidium atoms a certain je ne sais quoi.
Scientists arranged individual atoms of the element rubidium into a variety of 3-D shapes, including the Eiffel Tower. The team used a laser to trap atoms in the arrangements, performing a hologram-style technique to encode the complex positions. And moveable, laser-based “tweezers” (SN: 5/12/18, p. 24) shifted atoms that were in the wrong position, researchers from the Institut d’Optique Graduate School in Palaiseau, France, report in the Sept. 6 Nature.
In addition to the Parisian landmark, the researchers sculpted a cone, a doughnut and a Möbius strip — a twisted ring with the unusual property of having only one side (SN Online: 7/24/07). The technique may be helpful for creating atomic quantum computers, which could make calculations by manipulating the interactions between individual atoms (SN: 7/8/17, p. 28).