Researchers at the University of Michigan have built a better Rydberg atom trap that could be the key to creating a quantum computer.
Rydberg atoms are highly excited, nearly-ionized giant atoms that have interactions up to roughly a million times stronger than between regular atoms, which makes them useful for quantum computation, if you can catch the beggers.
In Physical Review Letters, Georg Raithel, associate chair and professor in the University of Michigan department of physics trapped the atoms in what's called an optical lattice made of "interfering laser beams".
Apparently these are better than any other Rydberg atom trap for quantum information processing or high-precision spectroscopy.
"Optical lattices minimize energy level shifts in the atoms, which is important for these applications," Raithel said.
At room temperature, the atoms whiz around at the speed of sound but after they are shot at with lasers they cool and slow down to the speed of a mosquito.
They can then use the laser to trap it and do something useful with it.