Physicists have done to atoms what they did to light a long time ago: They have created a laser beam, this time made of a stream of atoms.
Someday, the new “atom laser” may have applications ranging from building very tiny devices to making more precise atomic clocks.
But for now, many scientists say it’s not possible to predict what applications will come from the atom laser, just as no one could foresee three decades ago that the newly invented light laser would end up being used in supermarket price scanners and compact disc players.
The atom laser may be a crucial breakthrough toward controlling atoms at a very precise level, researchers say.
“This discovery is one of the most exciting things I’ve seen during my career in atomic physics,” said John Doyle of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.