Bose-Einstein Condensates

The History of Bose-Einstein Condensates

Daniela Monaldi

project_image_boseeinstein.jpg

Einstein's manuscript containing the theoretical prediction of Bose-Einstein condensation, 1924.<br>(Source: <a href="http://www.lorentz.leidenuniv.nl/history/Einstein_archive/">
http://www.lorentz.leidenuniv.nl/history/Einstein_archive/</a>)

In an increasing number of laboratories since 1995, physicists are creating a new state of matter through a process called Bose-Einstein condensation. Unlike solids, liquids, gases, and plasmas, pure Bose-Einstein condensates did not exist anywhere until eleven years ago, except in the realm of possibilities conjured up by quantum statistics—or perhaps, the scientists say, in a lab like ours in some other solar system.  Manipulating these new laboratory artifacts to test and extend our control of the laws of nature is the unifying aim of a new field of research that is emerging at the intersection of atomic physics, quantum optics, and condensed matter physics.
Bose-Einstein condensates have a complex history. Predicted by Einstein in 1925, the phenomenon of Bose-Einstein condensation is today recognized to play a role in superfluidity and superconductivity. Liquids and solids, however, are very different from the ideal gas envisioned by Einstein, and producing Bose-Einstein condensation in a gas requires chilling a vapour down to temperatures below one millionth of a degree above absolute zero.  Physicists' long quest to observe this fundamental scientific phenomenon in its pure form is therefore intertwined with an extended endeavour to push ever further the technology of the ultracold. I propose to investigate the history of Bose-Einstein condensates as the latest chapter of modern science's project to understand the material world by learning how to operate on its basic components.