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One highlight of this year's Institute of Physics Condensed Matter and Materials Physics Conference will be the presentation of research on atom chips.

A University of Munich team will propose a new kind of microchip in which whole atoms - rather than electrons - move around circuits.

Also up for discussion is probing into areas as diverse as snap-shot MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), organic semiconductor technology, high temperature superconductivity, and progress towards quantum computers.

The atom chip team, led by Professor Jakob Reichel, has been looking into the use of Bose-Eintein condensates in circuitry. B-E condensates form when particules are cooled to within bare fractions of absolute zero - just a few billionths of a degree warmer. They exhibit both quantum and wavelike behaviour and, according to Prof. Reichel, could enable the development of quantum computers.

In such atom chips, a B-E condensate, composed of thousands of atoms, hovers above the surface of the chip. The atoms move along what researchers describe as "air wires", or field lines created by very small magnetic fields. You could think of them as atomic-scale magnetic levitation trains floating above a track.

Other subject streams at the conference include 'Nanomagnetism and Spintronics', 'Quantum Fluids and Solids', 'Semiconductor Optics and Photonics', ‘Applied Superconductivity'.

There will also be a series of lectures by world-renowned researchers, including ‘Snap Shot MRI’ by Nobel prize-winner Sir Peter Mansfield, ‘Carbon Nanotube Electronics and Optoelectronics' by P Avouris of IBM USA, and 'Liquids, Solids and Elastic Heresy in Between - is there a 2 1⁄2th State of Matter?' by M Warner of the University of Cambridge, UK.

The conference is being held at the University of Warwick from 4-7 April. More information is available here. ®

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