Two individual atoms are set to interact for the first time

As the two lasers move towards each other, the two atoms interact with each other and change their properties by reason of this approximation. [Image: University of Otago]

Interaction between individual atoms

You must have gotten tired of hearing about the nanotechnology dream of building things from the bottom up, building atoms and molecules one at a time. That was what Richard Feynman proposed in his famous lecture "There is a lot of space down there" in 1959.

Now maybe we have taken the final step that will allow this.

Although we are accustomed to chemical reactions in which the zillions of atoms of a substance react with the zillions of atoms of another substance, to pick up an atom and to position it carefully next to another and to see them influence each other is a much greater challenge .

For that was precisely what a team at the University of Otago in New Zealand managed to do.

They placed one atom in each of two laser beams and moved them toward each other. Because atoms are like magnets, when the pair began to interact, they began to change the direction of each other, counterbalancing each other.

Control the atomic world

This is the first time that this pure basic interaction test has been demonstrated in the laboratory using two individual atoms. Previous experiments have used multiple atoms, resulting in undesirable interactions, such as chemical reactions between them.

And it is also much more accurate than anything that had ever been done with the optical tweezers, which won the Nobel Prize in Physics last year.

"Our work represents an important step in our ability to control the atomic world," said Professor Mikkel Andersen, team coordinator.

Taming quantum entanglement

The team plans to take the next step by trying to put the two atoms in quantum entanglement, which means that both will be inextricably connected even after they are separated. Interlacing is one of the cornerstones of quantum computing .

"When we get to the point where we can explore quantum entanglement, we will have a second quantum technological revolution - as we did with lasers, which made the internet possible. That is why making entanglement technology robust is important," Andersen said.


 Thermally robust spin correlations between two 85Rb atoms in an optical microtrap
 Pimonpan Sompet, Stuart S. Szigeti, Eyal Schwartz, Ashton S. Bradley, Mikkel F. Andersen
 Nature Communications
 Vol. 10, Article number: 1889
 DOI: 10.1038 / s41467 -019-09420-6

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