Physics and Astronomy


The Bose-Einstein condensate turns 25 ... and the race is on to make the first commercial device

Robert Shah and Dr Tom Barrett with their Bose-Einstein condensate

25 years ago today (5 June), Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman created the first Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) at the University of Colorado using rubidium atoms. Along with Wolfgang Ketterle, who made one from sodium atoms, this achievement won them the Nobel Prize.

This was over 70 years after Albert Einstein and Satyendra Nath Bose predicted it in 1924.

The Sussex Programme for Quantum Research has made a video to celebrate.

A Bose-Einstein condensate is created when a bunch of atoms are cooled down to micro Kelvin temperatures - a billion times colder than freezing. In these very precise conditions, the atoms behave as a single quantum object, also known as the fifth state of matter.

BECs have very special properties which make them ultra-sensitive to magnetic fields, useful in quantum technology.

Scroll forward 25 years and today, quantum physicists throughout the world working in the field of ultracold atoms are racing to make the first commercial BEC device.

The Quantum Systems and Devices lab at the University of Sussex are working on applications including microscopy on touch screens and biological tissue cells.

During lockdown, the Quantum Systems and Devices lab managed to achieve making a BEC remotely from their living rooms. Professor Peter Krüger, Director of the Sussex Programme for Quantum Research, said: “We believe this may the first time anyone has done this in a lab that didn’t have one before.”

Happy 25th birthday Bose-Einstein condensate.

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By: Rebecca Bond
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Last updated: Friday, 5 June 2020