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Atomic Engineering


Recent advances in experimental technique now allow atoms to be controlled and shaped into desired forms. Such sculpting is being undertaken at Rice using atoms initially excited to high-lying states. These so-called Rydberg atoms are physically very large, exceeding the size of many cells and bacteria. They form a bridge between the classical and quantum worlds and can be discussed using the classical Bohr model of an electron in distant orbit about the nucleus. This motion is controlled using a tailored sequence of very short, sub-nanosecond, pulsed electric fields that transport the electron from its initial state to the targeted final state in a process analogous to transferring a satellite from one desired orbit to another using a series of rocket burns. Using this approach, Barry Dunning and his group (Jim Lancaster, Wei Zhao and Jeff Mestayer) have successfully created quasi-one-dimensional very-highly-excited atoms by starting from a lower-lying state. An example of what can be accomplished using this approach is illustrated by the figure which shows calculated spatial distributions of the excited electron before and after application of the electric field pulses. This work provides a starting point for further studies of classical and quantum chaos and of information storage in atoms. It is described in a recent article in Physical Review Letters 95, 163007 (2005).



Citation is: Physical Review Letters 95, 163007 (2005)