Electron makes ultracold atoms move as one

Harnessing the strong particle-gas interaction is early step toward quantum optics applications

In a Bose-Einstein condensate, represented here, atoms condense from less dense red, yellow and green areas into very dense blue to white areas. Manipulating a single atom in this material can make all of the atoms vibrate together.

UC Boulder, JILA, NIST

Trapping a single electron in a Bose-Einstein condensate can make tens of thousands of rubidium atoms in an ultracold gas vibrate together. The electron-gas connection is stronger in this system than observed in previous experiments and is one of the purest forms available to study how electrons and matter interact, researchers report October 30 in Nature.

Harnessing this electron-gas interaction could one day help scientists image the path electrons take as the particles move around an atom’s nucleus and could improve quantum-scale optics systems.

photo of Ashley Yeager

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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