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Dressing Rubidium Atoms with Laser Light

"Dressing" a Bose-condensed gas of neutral rubidium atoms in a particular way gives the atoms a vector potential -- an effective directional tendency equivalent to what a charged particle would experience in a magnetic field.

Neutral atoms, having no net electric charge, usually don't act very dramatically around a magnetic field. But by “dressing up” a Bose-Einstein condensate of rubidium atoms – applying two beams of laser light, thus giving the atoms an effective directional tendency, or vector potential -- PFC researchers caused the ultracold atoms to undergo a startling transformation. They forced the cloud of neutral atoms to act like point-like charged particles that can undergo merry-go-round-like cyclotron motions just as electrons do when subjected to a suitable magnetic field. This extreme makeover technique for ultracold atoms promises to give physicists clues on how to achieve an exotic form of computation that would rely upon special fractionally charged particles dancing around on a surface.

Y.-J. Lin, R.L. Compton, A.R. Perry, W.D. Phillips, J.V. Porto and I.B. Spielman
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