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Date: 22 January 2017
Atomtronics : ultracold atoms instead of electrons  

Topic Name: Atomtronics : ultracold atoms instead of electrons
Category: Organic electronics
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Research persons: B. T. Seaman, M. Krämer, D. Z. Anderson, and M. J. Holland

Location: University of Colorado,440 UCB,Boulder, CO 80309-0440, United States


Atomtronics : ultracold atoms instead of electrons

JILA physicists
are investigating complex and interesting materials, circuits, and devices based
on ultracold atoms instead of electrons. Collectively known as atomtronics, they
have important theoretical advantages over conventional electronics, including
(1) superfluidity and superconductivity, (2) minimal thermal noise and
instability, and (3) coherent flow. With such characteristics, atomtronics could
play a key role in quantum computing, nanoscale amplifiers, and precision
A recent analysis
by graduate student Brian Seaman, research associate Meret Krämer, and Fellows
Dana Anderson and Murray Holland describes the operation of atomtronic
batteries, circuits, diodes, and transistors. These devices are based on
strongly interacting ultracold Bose atomic gases in lattices. The researchers
show how the behavior of ultracold atoms in such systems is analogous to that of
electrons in a doped semiconductor. Their study lays the theoretical groundwork
for more advanced atomtronic devices, including amplifiers, oscillators, and
logic gates.

devices use atom analogs of currents, batteries, and resistors. Atom flux, or
current, plays the role of electric current. Atom currents appear when atoms can
flow from a high-density region to a lower-density region. The difference in
atom density creates a chemical potential, analogous to the electrical potential
created inside a battery. If two optical lattices are connected by a waveguide,
this "wire" will allow atoms to flow from a lattice with lots of atoms to
another that contains just a few atoms. In this way, the optical lattices
connected by a waveguide function as a "battery," as shown in the schematic at

In atomtronic
circuits, increasing the height of an optical lattice will slow atom currents,
as a resistor does in an electronic circuit. However, higher lattices don't
dissipate heat and cause power loss as do resistors. In addition, precisely
adjusting the height of adjacent optical lattices and changing the number of
atoms in the lattices can create a "diode," which allows current flow in only
one direction. Such atomtronic diodes are analogous to semiconductor diodes
created by ajoining N-type and P-type semiconductors.

atomtronic transistors can be created by aligning two diodes back to back to
control a large current flow with a small current. However, in atomtronics, such
an arrangement creates a large negative gain, which is the opposite of what
happens in typical electronic transistors. This difference may require an
adjustment in design to replicate electronic circuitry. Even so, the new theory
of atomtronic transistors is particularly significant as it opens the door to
the implementation of an atom amplifier in the near future.

Seaman and his
colleagues' theoretical analysis of simple atomtronic devices and ciruits
required finding solutions to multiple complex dynamics calculations. The
researchers plan to build on this work by developing a more complex theory of
atomtronics and developing more straightforward calculation methods.


B. T.
Seaman, ,

University of Colorado

440 UCB

Boulder, CO 80309 USA

Voice: (303) 485-4070

Fax: (303) 492-5235




Dana Z.

[home page]

Fellow of JILA
Professor, Department of Physics
dana@jila.colorado.edu (303) 492-5202

Research Areas:
Atomic & Molecular Physics
Optical Physics,

Precision Measurement


[home page]

Fellow of JILA
Assistant Professor, Department of Physics
mholland@jila.colorado.edu (303) 492-4172

Research Areas:
Atomic & Molecular Physics
Optical Physics,
AMO Theory

Funded &
supported by JILA.

JILA is jointly
operated by the University of Colorado (CU) and the National Institute of
Standards and Technology (NIST).

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