PASCAL GOETGHELUCK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PASCAL GOETGHELUCK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Bose-Einstein condensate research. Thermal image of an 'optical spoon' produced by laser beams used to create a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). A BEC is a state of matter that can arise at very low temperatures. Atoms are trapped using laser beams and magnets, and supercooled almost to absolute zero. At these temperatures, the atoms all have the same quantum energy state, and are indistinguishable. They coalesce, behaving as if they were one single 'super atom.' During the process, two laser beams are rotated rapidly around each other, causing a stirring action that generates vortices in the atom cluster and facilitates the formation of the condensate. This optical spoon is seen here end- on. Photographed at the Laboratoire Kastler Brossel at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris, France.
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