Most modern technologies owe their success to advances in electronics. These devices harness the flow of electrons in different ways to create computers, charge batteries, light-up displays, and move motors.
Now researchers are starting to explore ways to harness the flow of waves of whole atoms, called matter waves, to enable new kinds of sensors, computers, and scientific research.
This new field has been named atomtronics, owing to the focus on finding ways to move whole atoms rather than electrons in traditional electronics devices.
The field is still young, and scientists are struggling to identify what ideas are practical to implement today.
Consequently, a team of researchers at the Technology Innovation Institute in the United Arab Emirates has led an ambitious effort to catalogue the current state of atomtronic technology in conjunction with dozens of leading researchers worldwide.
Creating such a comprehensive atomtronic overview and roadmap is important as it provides a coherent picture of what works today and shows which challenges should be addressed tomorrow.
Professor Luigi Amico, executive director of quantum physics at the TII, says: “It took several decades for quantum theory to find applications in everyday practical devices like televisions, lasers, and computers.
“We are now one step further, in the quantum technology era, in which we want to control whole quantum particles aggregates. Atomtronics harnesses the core principles of quantum technology both to work out devices with enhanced performances and to explore basic science.”
Traditional electronics is based on painting conductive circuits onto a chip. These are hard-wired, limited to the surface of the chip, and are sensitive to electrical field and radio wave perturbances.
In contrast, atomtronic circuits can be created on the fly using guided laser beams and other techniques. Being an electrically neutral quantum fluid, atomtronic circuits can also be less sensitive to spurious electrical fields.
These properties could lead to more accurate sensors, more robust quantum computers, and new tools for probing the secrets of the universe.
The key properties of the developed atomtronic roadmap, are the evaluation of the field’s rapid progress and the demonstration that collaborating and openly sharing information are essential for success.
Main image: Nature magazine