Scientists to manipulate the 'super-size boson'

January 24, 2002

More accurate navigational aids such as gyroscopes, next-generation sensors including magnetic and gravitational sensors and clocks - will all get a boost from the research from the latest physics Nobel Prize winners, who have been supported for years by the Office of Naval Research.*

Eric Cornell, Carl Wieman and Wolfgang Ketterle were honored for their creation of Bose-Einstein Condensates (BEC) in gases of atomic rubidium and sodium. Their scientific advances built on the work of Albert Einstein who did the math to show that when cooled, particles called bosons would stop flitting around and settle into a shared low-energy state. The researchers demonstrated this, showing that when cooled thousands and even millions of bosons will act coherently as one, allowing scientists to manipulate the "super-size boson."

Cornell and Wieman, physicists working at the University of Colorado at Boulder used a combination of optical and magnetic trapping techniques, combined with a final evaporation stage, to coerce about 2,000 cooled rubidium atoms into a BEC in 1995. Shortly thereafter, Ketterle, working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was able to create an even larger BEC cloud out of sodium atoms using a different technique. BEC allows scientists to create a large group of atoms to show off the wave nature of matter.
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* The number of ONR-supported Nobel Prize winners is now 50. For the complete list, please visit the ONR web site at http://www.onr.navy.mil/events/nobels/default.htm

For more information on how BEC will lead to advances in navigation if you are working media, please call Audrey Haar, 703-696-2869, or email haara@onr.navy.mil.

Office of Naval Research

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