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'Black hole' at atomic scale demonstrated

April 13, 2010 at 11:40 AM   |   Comments

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., April 13 (UPI) -- U.S. physicists say they have discovered atoms spiral toward a charged carbon nanotube, displaying dramatic acceleration before splitting apart.

Harvard University researchers said their findings mean carbon nanotubes -- long touted for applications in materials and electronics -- might also be the stuff of atomic-scale black holes.

The scientists said they've found a high-voltage nanotube can cause cold atoms to spiral inward under dramatic acceleration before violently disintegrating. They said their experiments are the first to demonstrate something akin to a black hole at atomic scale.

"On a scale of nanometers, we create an inexorable and destructive pull similar to what black holes exert on matter at cosmic scales," Professor Lene Vestergaard Hau said. "As importantly for scientists, this is the first merging of cold-atom and nanoscale science, and it opens the door to a new generation of cold atom experiments and nanoscale devices."

Hau and co-authors Anne Goodsell, Trygve Ristroph and Jene Golovchenko describe their experiments in the journal Physical Review Letters.

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