Visions 16: Bose-Einstein condensates

Ultra-cold groups of atoms that act as single wave-like entities offer a new path into the quantum world

Visions 16: Bose-Einstein condensates

A decade ago, physicists created a new kind of atomic matter called a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). 

The phenomenon is not only providing new insights into quantum theory – which underpins our understanding of the Universe at the microscopic level – but also opens the door to a host of applications such as atom lasers, improved atomic clocks and quantum computers. 

Quantum theory is a mathematical framework which describes the wave-like behaviour of atoms (as well as photons of light). 

Eighty years ago, Albert Einstein and the Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose predicted that a cloud of identical atoms would reveal their quantum character in an unusual way.

Visions 16: Bose-Einstein condensates (PDF, 346 KB)