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One of the more unexpected things that can be done with charge-neutral atoms is using them to emulate the fundamental behavior of electrons. Over the past few years, the group of Tilman Esslinger at the Institute of Quantum Electronics in the Department of Physics of ETH Zurich has pioneered a platform in which atoms cooled to temperatures close to absolute zero are transported through one- and two-dimensional structures, driven by a potential difference. In this way, defining phenomena occuring in mesoscopic electronic systems can be studied in great detail, including quantized conductance. In a pair of papers published today in Physical Review Letters and Physical Review A, postdoc Laura Corman, former Ph.D. student Martin Lebrat and colleagues in the Esslinger group report that they have mastered in their transport experiments control over quantum spin.
The team added a tightly focused light beam to the transport channel that induces local interactions equivalent to exposing the atoms to a strong magnetic field. As a consequence, the degeneracy of the spin states is lifted, which in turn serves as the basis for an efficient...
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