A research team from the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) has created atoms that can behave like charged particles speeded up by electric fields. The JQI is a joint venture of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland.
The research paper has appeared in the journal Nature Physics. The artificial electric fields compel individual atoms in a gas behave like charged particles. However, when taken collectively, they retain their neutrality. This feature will make it easy for scientists to replicate and study basic electrical properties including superconductivity, uninterrupted electricity flow, or the quantum Hall effect, deployed by NIST to develop electrical resistance.
An artificial electric field was developed in an ultracold gas of rubidium atoms. Lasers were used to modify the atomic energy in relation to its momentum. A part of the lasers' momentum shifted to the atoms, making them move. The force on individual atom is identical and mathematically similar to a charged particle in an electric field. The particles attract each other.