SIGNIFICANT EVENTS - SCIENCE EVENTS
07/26/02

Rice Group Discovers Solitons in Laser-Cooled Atoms, Goes to Press

A press release that went public on July 18 emphasizes applying a new discovery in laser-cooled atoms, long-lived waves called solitons, to detection of geologic events on Earth and on other planets. The discovery by Randall Hulet's group at Rice University promises to improve the sensitivity of atom interferometers. The introduction to the press release follows:

ATOM RESEARCH MAY HELP DETECT VOLCANOES AND OCEANS

Breakthrough research on waves of ultra-cold atoms may lead to sophisticated atom lasers that might eventually predict volcanic eruptions on Earth and map a probable subsurface ocean on Jupiter's moon Europa.

The atoms were manipulated to form tidy bundles of waves, called solitons, which retained their shape and strength. They were created in a laboratory at Rice University, Houston, under a grant from NASA's Biological and Physical Research Program through the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Normally, when a wave forms -- whether in water, light or atoms -- it tends to spread out as it travels. Not so with a soliton wave. It maintains its perfect shape without spreading. In the Rice University research, the solitons are localized bundles of atom waves.

Atom-wave solitons could be used in advanced lasers, which use atoms instead of light photons. Dr. Randall Hulet, the Rice University physics and astronomy professor who led the research team, said atom lasers may have many applications, some not yet envisioned.

Read more at: http://spaceresearch.nasa.gov/general_info/OBPR-02-130.html.



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