This calculated diffraction image shows how forked diffraction gratings shape the atoms' wave function into a vortex. (Courtesy: Science/AAAS)
Topics: Bose-Einstein Condensate, Nanotechnology, Particle Physics, Quantum Optics
A wave-like property previously only seen in beams of light and electrons has been observed for the first time in atoms and molecules. By passing beams of helium and neon through a grid of specially shaped nanoslits, researchers led by Edvardas Narevicius of Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science succeeded in giving the beams a non-zero orbital angular momentum (OAM). The resulting structures are known vortex beams, and they could be used for fundamental physics studies such as probing the internal structure of protons.
Many natural systems contain vortices – think of tornadoes and ocean eddies on Earth, the red spot on Jupiter, and gravitational vortices around black holes. On all scales, such vortices are characterized by the circulation of a flux around an axis. In the quantum world, these swirling structures are found in ensembles of particles that can be described by a wavefunction, including superfluids and Bose-Einstein condensates.
Atoms and molecules make vortex beams, Isabelle Dumé, Physics World