Rubidium atoms mimic the Eiffel Tower and other 3-D shapes | Science News

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Rubidium atoms mimic the Eiffel Tower, a Möbius strip and other 3-D shapes

The technique could one day be useful for atomic quantum computers

1:00pm, September 5, 2018
rubidium atoms in 3-D structures

OH LA LA  Using lasers, scientists arranged rubidium atoms into 3-D structures, such as the Eiffel Tower and a Möbius strip, as seen in this image which shows the average fluorescence of single atoms.

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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).


D. Barredo et al. Synthetic three-dimensional atomic structures assembled atom by atom. Nature. Vol. 561, September 6, 2018, p. 79. doi: 10.1038/s41586-018-0450-2.

Further Reading

M. Temming. Using laser tweezers, chemists nudged two atoms to bondScience News. Vol. 193, May 12, 2018, p. 24.

E. Conover. Quantum computers are about to get real. Science News. Vol. 191, July 8, 2017, p. 28.

A. Grant. Rubidium atoms used to record coldest temperature — ever. Science News. Vol. 187, May 16, 2015, p. 4.

J. Rehmeyer. A Twist on the Möbius Band. Science News Online, July 24, 2007.

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