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Atomic superconductor to enable ultra-precise gyroscopes

Posted: 06 Apr 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:superfluidity? superconductivity? ultra-precise gyroscopes? superconducting quantum? interference devices?

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have concluded that superfluiditythe atomic version of superconductivitycan be demonstrated by circulating ultra-cold atoms around a ring, and may pave the way for sensors that can track rotational motion in ultra-accurate gyroscopes.

When gases are cooled to near absolute zero, they condense into a superfluid that can be launched around a ring to exhibit perpetual motion, similar to the manner in which superconducting quantum interference devices (squids) detectors circulate electrons around a superconducting ring. Such atomic squids could enable ultra-precise gyroscopes the size of MEMS.

Atomic-scale circuit

Atomic-scale circuit harnesses a ring of ultra-cold sodium gas (red) circulating around a ring, with a laser-based barrier stopping the flow of atoms around the circuit (left); without the barrier the atoms circulate around the ring (right).

NIST researchers worked with the University of Maryland on the world's first atom-circuit formed by a loop of atoms in a superfluidic state, which can be switched on and off with a laser-controlled barrier. The research team was able to demonstrate perpetual motioncalled persistent currentfor a record-setting 40s.

NIST said it was working toward a future atomtronics era where all circuit components would be based on atomic-scale mechanisms that can harness quantum effects to create superconductors, superinsulators and now superfluidic devices.

- R. Colin Johnson
??EE Times

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