The revolution in light sensors that quantum physics has made possible continues with news from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Like their counterparts at the Vienna University of Technology, scientists from the US have been looking at the spin properties of electrons for applications in quantum memory, atomic clocks and "scientific gadgets".
By maintaining polarisation among the electrons in a beam, the researchers have improved the sensitivity of magnetometers, which use atom and light sensors to measure magnetic fields.
Dmitry Budker of the laboratory's nuclear science division explains that the key is to prevent the beam of electrons from colliding with the wall of its container.
When an inert gas is inserted, preventing the electrons from hitting the wall, polarisation can be maintained for longer periods and to a higher degree.
The scientists have now managed to keep electron spin polarisation maintained for over a minute - an improvement over the previous best attempts of two orders of magnitude.