[ASC-media] Media release: our first atom laser fires up

JCA Media jcamedia at starclass.com.au
Wed Aug 18 09:28:59 EST 2004


August 18, 2004


The development of Australia's first atom laser by scientists at the Australian National University is heralding a radical new era in technology.

The research team, at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum-Atom Optics (ACQAO), is an integral part of the global collaboration pushing the frontiers of quantum technology.

"(With quantum technologies), we're not talking about simply improving the existing building blocks of technology," says Dr John Close, a senior member of the research team.

"We're talking about making a whole new type of building block."

Dr Close worked closely with colleagues including Dr Nick Robins to produce the pulsed atom laser. The laser, one of only five in the world, is the first Australian example of a quantum technology. It uses a single beam of atoms, and is the coldest material in the Universe, at a temperature 100-billionths of a degree above absolute zero. 

Conventional lasers are made of aligned light waves of a single type. The arrangement of atoms in the atom laser causes it to behave similarly - but in a much finer beam. 

"The laser is only the width of a human hair," says Professor Hans Bachor, director of ACQAO. This allows it to be used for work up to a million, million times more sensitive than conventional light, or optical, lasers.

"We're spoilt in this area of research," says Dr Close. "Around the world there is a significant new development every month."

"This makes our work exciting: unpredictable but full of promise."

Dr Close has recently returned from the United States, where he presented his team's work to fellow scientists at the University of California, Berkley, Stanford University and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

"This new type of technology will change the world to the same extent as the invention of the transistor and the discovery of the optical laser did in their time."

The emerging world of quantum technologies is just one of more than 160 stories about cutting edge Australian science that feature in National Science Week's list of top scientific research. To interview any of the scientists on the list: http://www.scienceweek.info.au/media

For more information about the atom laser and quantum technologies:

Dr John Close, 0410 361 367
John.Close at anu.edu.au

Dr Nick Robins, 02 6125 0636, 0428 299 472
Nick.Robins at anu.edu.au

Professor Hans Bachor, 02 6125 2811
Hans.Bachor at anu.edu.au

For information on National Science week, contact:
Telephone: 02 6205 0281
Mobile: 0407 781 891
Facsimile: 02 6207 0072
Email:	scienceweek at orac.net.au

For events in National Science Week 2004, please visit:

National Science Week is supported by the Commonwealth Government Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources (DITR).

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