A method to mould matter into complex shapes that involves the usage of “twisted” light has been devised by a team of researchers, at the University of Strathclyde. The new technique builds on the temperature-sensitive property of atoms. When atoms are cooled till, or close to, the absolute zero temperatures (-273 degrees Celsius), they stop behaving like particles and tend to show characteristics of a wave. In such a condition, the atoms are known as Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs).
BECs are an integral part of the workings of atom lasers, quantum simulations, and slow light. The BECs help in the understanding of materials such as superfluids and superconductors.
The study published in Physical Review Letters has stated that when twisted light is cast upon these BECs, which are dynamic in nature, the particles further disintegrate and break into clusters of BEC droplets.
These droplets tend to move according to the features of the light being shown. Using the twisted light as a steering component, as well as a regulator, the researchers have observed that they could control the number of BEC droplets, along with the way they move. The study showed that the number of droplets of the BECs are equal to twice the number of light twists.
“By shining a laser beam onto a BEC, we can influence how it behaves. When the laser beam is ‘twisted’, it has a helical phase profile and carries orbital angular momentum (OAM). Laser beams with OAM can trap and rotate microscopic particles, behaving like an optical spanner,” said Grant Henderson, lead author of the paper, in a statement.
The researchers stated that the method of shining twisted light through ultracold atoms carves out a simpler and novel way of “sculpting matter into unconventional and complex shapes”. The new method has provided the immense potential for designing new quantum devices such as ultra-sensitive detectors and atomtronic circuits.