Ultracold Cloud Of Atoms Hums When Expanded

Posted: Apr 23 2018, 10:36am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Ultracold Cloud of Atoms Hums When Expanded
An expanding, ring-shaped cloud of atoms shares several striking features with the early universe. (Credit: E. Edwards/JQI)

New atom experiment could future model of cosmology.

Researchers experimenting with a cloud of ultracold atoms uncovered behavior that could be a new model for cosmology. T

"From the atomic physics perspective, the experiment is beautifully described by existing theory," says Stephen Eckel, an atomic physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the lead author of the new paper. "But even more striking is how that theory connects with cosmology."

In several sets of experiments, Eckel and his colleagues rapidly expanded the size of a doughnut-shaped cloud of atoms, taking snapshots during the process. The growth happens so fast that the cloud is left humming, and a related hum may have appeared on cosmic scales during the rapid expansion of the early universe—an epoch that cosmologists refer to as the period of inflation.

The work brought together experts in atomic physics and gravity. the experiments highlight the versatility of the Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC)—an ultracold cloud of atoms that can be described as a single quantum object.

"Maybe this will one day inform future models of cosmology," Eckel says. "Or vice versa. Maybe there will be a model of cosmology that’s difficult to solve but that you could simulate using a cold atomic gas."

In one series of the experiments, researchers spotted analogous features in their cloud of atoms. They imprinted a sound wave onto their cloud alternating regions of more atoms and fewer atoms around the ring.

The sound wave stretched out, but its amplitude also decreased. The math revealed that this damping looked just like Hubble friction, and the behavior was captured by calculations and numerical simulations.

"It's like we're hitting the BEC with a hammer," says Gretchen Campbell, the NIST co-director of the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) and a coauthor of the paper, "and it’s sort of shocking to me that these simulations so nicely replicate what's going on."

The new research, which makes new connections between atomic physics and the sudden expansion of the early universe, was published April 19 in Physical Review X.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/2" rel="author">Luigi Lugmayr</a>
Luigi Lugmayr () is the founding chief Editor of I4U News and brings over 15 years experience in the technology field to the ever evolving and exciting world of gadgets. He started I4U News back in 2000 and evolved it into vibrant technology magazine.
Luigi can be contacted directly at ml@i4u.com.

 

 

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