While testing concepts on the quantum mechanical effects of superfluidity, scientists accidentally created an atomic equivalent of a transistor. Tilman Esslinger and his team of researchers working at the Institute for Quantum Electronics in Zurich, Switzerland, were trying to observe the transition from non-superfluid to superfluid to better understand superconductivity when they happened to stumble upon an atomic transistor.
By using lithium atoms cooled to 500 nano-degrees above absolute zero, and two laser beams criss-crossed over one another, along with a reservoir for the atoms to drain into, the scientist have created a cigar-shaped channel 200 micrometers long and 20 micrometers wide made entirely of light. Furthermore, using more lasers the scientists were able to switch the flow of current on or off. Closing the channel, the lithium gas builds up and loses its fluidity. However, once the channel is re-opened the superfluidity instantly comes back and the current flows resistance free.
The technology is not going to be commercialized anytime soon, but it will remain in the lab for further studying and research. The scientists want to use the transistor system to run simulations of how future superconducting devices may operate. Esslinger and his team are going to continue to work on their research and studying the electrical property of superconductivity.