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Atom Chips, a possible route to nanofabrication

from the yippee-ti-yi-yo,-get-along-little-moieties dept.
alison describes a report on progress toward the ability to "herd" atoms and molecules using the electric and magnetic fields of an integrated circuit. Click below for details. "The manipulation of atoms with the magnetic and electric fields of integrated circuits strikes me as the most viable candidate method I have heard for a real 'assembler.' Note that by using Bose-Einstein condensates as the source for atoms, one can control not only their position, but also their orientation and state of excitation (ionized, vibrating, etc.). I believe that this approach is more viable than mechanosynthesis, although it's obviously still early in the game." Received this from the American Institute of Physics Physics News Update:

ATOM CHIPS. Last year scientists at the University of Innsbruck in Austria succeeded in guiding neutral atoms along the outside of current-carrying wires (Update 416); the atoms were trapped and manipulated by magnetic fields generated by the current in the wire. Now the same scientists have, through a deft series of steps involving extra current-carrying coils and laser beams, been able to herd cold lithium atoms to within a few microns of a patterned microchip, where the atoms come under the control and guidance of currents in the chip. The goal of the Innsbruck physicists (Joerg Schmiedmayer, joerg.schmiedmayer@uibk.ac.at, 011-43-512-507-6306) is to develop an integrated circuit for atoms and eventually (when the source of the atoms is not a mere atom beam but a true Bose-Einstein condensate) for atom waves. Such a device might be of service for doing quantum optics or computation involving quantum entanglement. (Foman et al., Physical Review Letters, 15 May 2000; Select Article.)

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