Yale physicists first to create a 'squeezed state' of atoms, which could lead to improved sensitivity ofnavigation systems used on planes and ships

t care about in another dimension, such as the phase of the field or the length of the puck, to enable an outcome which would have not been possible with the non-squeezed state."

The "squeezing" is a metaphor that describes a way of working around the limits of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which places a limit on how accurately the value of two complementary physical quantities can be measured. The Uncertainty Principle states that it is impossible to know both the exact position and the velocity of a particle. "If we make a better measurement of the position, we lose our knowledge of how fast the particle is moving, and vice versa," said Orzel.

The Uncertainty Principle also states that there is a similar relationship between the number of particles in a given state and a quantum-mechanical property of those particles referred to as the "phase" of that state. "If we make a very precise measurement of the number of particles we have, we lose all information about the associated phase," said Orzel. "In typical real-world situations, both the phase and the number are known reasonably well, but are slightly uncertain."

Orzel and collaborators loaded a Bose-Einstein Condensate into an array of atom traps created by a single laser beam. By manipulating the intensity of the trapping laser and the strength of the interactions between the atoms, they were able to reduce the quantum uncertainty in the number of atoms in a single well from +/- 50 atoms to +/- 2 atoms.

"Quantum states of this type, with reduced uncertainty in the number of particles and increased uncertainty in the phase, are called 'squeezed states,' and have been studied extensively in light," said Orzel. "This is the first time anyone has seen number-squeezing in atoms."

The number-squeezed states produced in the laboratory have the potential to dramatically improve the sensitivity of detectors based on atom interferometry. Atom-interferometric detectors for rotation, accel

Contact: Karen N. Peart
Yale University

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