quantum mechanics (23)

Rule Breakers...

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Credit: Matt Harrison Clough (original image at link)

Topics: Entanglement, High Energy Physics, Particle Physics, Quantum Mechanics

Breaking the rules is exciting, especially if they have been held for a long time. This is true not just in life but also in particle physics. Here the rule I’m thinking of is called “lepton flavor universality,” and it is one of the predictions of our Standard Model of particle physics, which describes all the known fundamental particles and their interactions (except for gravity). For several decades after the invention of the Standard Model, particles seemed to obey this rule.

Things started to change in 2004 when the E821 experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island announced its measurement of a property of the muon—a heavy version of the electron—known as its g-factor. The measurement wasn’t what the Standard Model predicted. Muons and electrons are both parts of a class of particles called leptons (along with a third particle, the tau, as well as the three generations of neutrinos). The rule of lepton flavor universality says that because electrons and muons are charged leptons, they should all interact with other particles in the same way (barring small differences related to the Higgs particle). If they don’t, then they violate lepton flavor universality—and the unexpected g-factor measurement suggested that’s just what was happening.

If particles really were breaking this rule, that would be exciting in its own right and also because physicists believe that the Standard Model can’t be the ultimate theory of nature. The theory doesn’t explain why neutrinos have mass, what makes up the invisible dark matter that seems to dominate the cosmos, or why matter won out over antimatter in the early universe. Therefore, the Standard Model must be merely an approximate description that we will need to supplement by adding new particles and interactions. Physicists have proposed a huge number of such extensions, but at most one of these theories can be correct, and so far none of them has received any direct confirmation. A measured violation of the Standard Model would be a flashlight pointing the way toward this higher theory we seek.

Rule-Breaking Particles Pop Up in Experiments around the World, Andreas Crivellin, Scientific American

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Quipu...

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Credit: sakkmesterke/ Getty Images

Topics: Lasers, Modern Physics, Quantum Computer, Quantum Mechanics

Physicists have devised a mind-bending error-correction technique that could dramatically boost the performance of quantum computers.

When the ancient Incas wanted to archive tax and census records, they used a device made up of a number of strings called a quipu, which encoded the data in knots. Fast-forward several hundred years, and physicists are on their way to developing a far more sophisticated modern equivalent. Their “quipu” is a new phase of matter created within a quantum computer, their strings are atoms, and the knots are generated by patterns of laser pulses that effectively open up [a] second dimension of time.

This isn’t quite as incomprehensible as it first appears. The new phase is one of many within a family of so-called topological phases, which were first identified in the 1980s. These materials display order not on the basis of how their constituents are arranged—like the regular spacing of atoms in a crystal—but on their dynamic motions and interactions. Creating a new topological phase—that is, a new “phase of matter”—is as simple as applying novel combinations of electromagnetic fields and laser pulses to bring order or “symmetry” to the motions and states of a substance’s atoms. Such symmetries can exist in time rather than space, for example in induced repetitive motions. Time symmetries can be difficult to see directly but can be revealed mathematically by imagining the real-world material as a lower-dimensional projection from a hypothetical higher-dimensional space, similar to how a two-dimensional hologram is a lower-dimensional projection of a three-dimensional object. In the case of this newly created phase, which manifests in a strand of ions (electrically charged atoms), its symmetries can be discerned by considering it as a material that exists in higher-dimensional reality with two-time dimensions.

“It is very exciting to see this unusual phase of matter realized in an actual experiment, especially because the mathematical description is based on a theoretical ‘extra’ time dimension,” says team member Philipp Dumitrescu, who was at the Flatiron Institute in New York City when the experiments were carried out. A paper describing the work was published in Nature on July 20.

Opening a portal to an extra time dimension—even just a theoretical one—sounds thrilling, but it was not the physicists’ original plan. “We were very much motivated to see what new types of phases could be created,” says study co-author Andrew Potter, a quantum physicist at the University of British Columbia. Only after envisioning their proposed new phase did the team members realize it could help protect data being processed in quantum computers from errors.

New Phase of Matter Opens Portal to Extra Time Dimension, Zeeya Merali, Scientific American

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Quantum Charging...

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GIF Source: Sci-Tech Daily

Topics: Alternate Energy, Battery, Green Tech, Nanotechnology, Quantum Mechanics

Note: I'm in the semifinals of the 3-Minute Thesis competition, so I decided to focus on my presentation. Wish me luck. This does, however, relate to our need as a species to get off fossil fuels as soon as possible, so things like Ukraine, Crimea, and the dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi are not facilitated by our need for energy and our tolerance for tyrants.

Whether it’s photovoltaics or fusion, sooner or later, human civilization must turn to renewable energies. This is deemed inevitable considering the ever-growing energy demands of humanity and the finite nature of fossil fuels. As such, much research has been pursued in order to develop alternative sources of energy, most of which utilize electricity as the main energy carrier. The extensive R&D in renewables has been accompanied by gradual societal changes as the world adopted new products and devices running on renewables. The most striking change as of recently is the rapid adoption of electric vehicles. While they were hardly seen on the roads even 10 years ago, now millions of electric cars are being sold annually. The electric car market is one of the most rapidly growing sectors, and it helped propel Elon Musk to become the wealthiest man in the world.

Unlike traditional cars which derive energy from the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels, electric vehicles rely on batteries as the storage medium for their energy. For a long time, batteries had far lower energy density than those offered by hydrocarbons, which resulted in very low ranges of early electric vehicles. However, gradual improvement in battery technologies eventually allowed the drive ranges of electric cars to be within acceptable levels in comparison to gasoline-burning cars. It is no understatement that the improvement in battery storage technology was one of the main technical bottlenecks which had to be solved in order to kickstart the current electric vehicle revolution.

New Quantum Technology To Make Charging Electric Cars As Fast as Pumping Gas, Institute for Basic Science, Sci-Tech Daily

Reference: “Quantum Charging Advantage Cannot Be Extensive Without Global Operations” 21 March 2022, Physical Review Letters.

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Aharonov-Bohm Effect

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A quantum probe for gravity: Physicists have detected a tiny phase shift in atomic wave packets due to gravity-induced relativistic time dilation – an example of the Aharonov-Bohm effect in action. (Courtesy: Shutterstock/Evgenia Fux)

Topics: General Relativity, Gravity, Modern Physics, Quantum Mechanics

The idea that particles can feel the influence of potentials even without being exposed to a force field may seem counterintuitive, but it has long been accepted in physics thanks to experimental demonstrations involving electromagnetic interactions. Now physicists in the US have shown that this so-called Aharonov-Bohm effect also holds true for a much weaker force: gravity. The physicists based their conclusion on the behavior of freefalling atomic wave packets, and they say the result suggests a new way of measuring Newton’s gravitational constant with far greater precision than was previously possible.

Yakir Aharonov and David Bohm proposed the effect that now bears their name in 1959, arguing that while classical potentials have no physical reality apart from the fields they represent, the same is not true in the quantum world. To make their case, the pair proposed a thought experiment in which an electron beam in a superposition of two wave packets is exposed to a time-varying electrical potential (but no field) when passing through a pair of metal tubes. They argued that the potential would introduce a phase difference between the wave packets and therefore lead to a measurable physical effect – a set of interference fringes – when the wave packets are recombined.

Seeking a gravitational counterpart

In the latest research, Mark Kasevich and colleagues at Stanford University show that the same effect also holds true for gravity. The platform for their experiment is an atom interferometer, which uses a series of laser pulses to split, guide and recombine atomic wave packets. The interference from these wave packets then reveals any change in the relative phase experienced along the two arms.

Physicists detect an Aharonov-Bohm effect for gravity, Edwin Cartlidge, Physics World

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Tardigrades and Qubits...

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(Credit: Giovanni Cancemi/Shutterstock) 

Topics: Biology, Condensed Matter Physics, Modern Physics, Quantum Mechanics

Note: After presenting my research proposal and acceptance by my committee, I've been taking a well-needed break from blogging. I'll post on and off until the New Year, which isn't too far off. Happy holidays!

In recent years, evidence has emerged that quantum physics seems to play a role in some of life’s fundamental processes. But just how it might do this is something of a mystery.

On the one hand, quantum phenomena are generally so delicate that they can only be observed when all other influences are damped – in other words in carefully controlled systems at temperatures close to absolute zero. By contrast, the conditions for life are generally complex, warm, and damp. Understanding this seemingly contradictory state of affairs is an important goal.

So physicists and biologists are keen to explore the boundaries of these very different regimes—life and quantum mechanics—to better understand where they might overlap.

Now Rainer Dumke at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and colleagues have created an exotic quantum state called entanglement using a superconducting qubit and a microscopic animal called a tardigrade. Along the way, the team has created the most extreme form of suspended animation ever recorded. “The tardigrade itself is shown to be entangled with the remaining subsystems,” they say.

To perform their entanglement experiment, Dumke and co cooled their tardigrade to below 10 millikelvins, almost to absolute zero, while reducing the pressure to a millionth of that in the atmosphere. In these conditions, no chemical reaction can occur so the tardigrade’s metabolism must have entirely halted stopped and the processes of life halted.

“This is to date the most extreme exposure to low temperatures and pressures that a tardigrade has been recorded to survive, clearly demonstrating that the state of cryptobiosis ultimately involves a suspension of all metabolic processes given that all chemical reactions would be prohibited with all its constituent molecules cooled to their ground states,” say the researchers.

In this condition, the tardigrade can be thought of as a purely dielectric element. Indeed, the researchers simulated their experiment by treating the tardigrade as a dielectric cube.

The experimental setup consisted of two superconducting capacitors, which when cooled can exist in a superposition of states called a qubit. They placed the tardigrade between the capacitor plates of one qubit so that it became an integral part of the capacitor. The team was then able to measure the effect of the tardigrade on the qubit’s properties.

How a Tardigrade "Micro Animal" Became Quantum Entangled with Superconducting Qubit, The Physics AriXiv Blog, Discovery Magazine

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Quantum AI...

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Rutgers researchers and their collaborators have found that learning - a universal feature of intelligence in living beings - can be mimicked in synthetic matter, a discovery that in turn could inspire new algorithms for artificial intelligence (AI). (Courtesy: Rutgers University-New Brunswick)

Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science, Materials Science, Quantum Mechanics

Quantum materials known as Mott insulators can “learn” to respond to external stimuli in a way that mimics animal behavior, say researchers at Rutgers University in the US. The discovery of behaviors such as habituation and sensitization in these non-living systems could lead to new algorithms for artificial intelligence (AI).

Neuromorphic, or brain-inspired, computers aim to mimic the neural systems of living species at the physical level of neurons (brain nerve cells) and synapses (the connections between neurons). Each of the 100 billion neurons in the human brain, for example, receives electrical inputs from some of its neighbors and then “fires” an electrical output to others when the sum of the inputs exceeds a certain threshold. This process, also known as “spiking”, can be reproduced in nanoscale devices such as spintronic oscillators. As well as being potentially much faster and energy-efficient than conventional computers, devices based on these neuromorphic principles might be able to learn how to perform new tasks without being directly programmed to accomplish them.

Quantum material ‘learns’ like a living creature, Isabelle Dumé, Physics World

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Quantum Exorcism...

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Figure 2. Maxwell’s demon is a hypothetical being that can observe individual molecules in a gas-filled box with a partition in the middle separating chambers A and B. If the demon sees a fast-moving gas molecule, it opens a trapdoor in the partition to let fast-moving molecules into chamber B while leaving slow-moving ones behind. Repeating that action would allow the buildup of a temperature difference between the two sides of the partition. A heat engine could use that temperature difference to perform work, which would contradict the second law of thermodynamics.

Topics: Chemistry, History, Materials Science, Quantum Mechanics, Thermodynamics

Thermodynamics is a strange theory. Although it is fundamental to our understanding of the world, it differs dramatically from other physical theories. For that reason, it has been termed the “village witch” of physics.1 Some of the many oddities of thermodynamics are the bizarre philosophical implications of classical statistical mechanics. Well before relativity theory and quantum mechanics brought the paradoxes of modern physics into the public eye, Ludwig Boltzmann, James Clerk Maxwell, and other pioneers of statistical mechanics wrestled with several thought experiments, or demons, that threatened to undermine thermodynamics.

Despite valiant efforts, Maxwell and Boltzmann were unable to completely vanquish the demons besetting the village witch of physics—largely because they were limited to the classical perspective. Today, experimental and theoretical developments in quantum foundations have granted present-day researchers and philosophers greater insights into thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. They allow us to perform a “quantum exorcism” on the demons haunting thermodynamics and banish them once and for all.

Loschmidt’s demon and time reversibility

Boltzmann, a founder of statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, was fascinated by one of the latter field’s seeming paradoxes: How does the irreversible behavior demonstrated by a system reaching thermodynamic equilibrium, such as a cup of coffee cooling down or a gas spreading out, arise from the underlying time-reversible classical mechanics?2 That equilibrating behavior only happens in one direction of time: If you watch a video of a wine glass smashing, you know immediately whether the video was in rewind or not. In contrast, the underlying classical or quantum mechanics are time-reversible: If you were to see a video of lots of billiard balls colliding, you wouldn’t necessarily know whether the video was in rewind or not. Throughout his career, Boltzmann pursued a range of strategies to explain irreversible equilibrating behavior from the underlying reversible dynamics. Boltzmann’s friend Josef Loschmidt famously objected to those attempts. He argued that the underlying classical mechanics allow for the possibility that the momenta are reversed, which would lead to the gas retracing its steps and “anti-equilibrating” to the earlier, lower-entropy state. Boltzmann challenged Loschmidt to try to reverse the momenta, but Loschmidt was unable to do so. Nevertheless, we can envision a demon that could. After all, it is just a matter of practical impossibility—not physical impossibility—that we can’t reach into a box of gas and reverse each molecule’s trajectory.

Technological developments since Loschmidt’s death in 1895 have expanded the horizons of what is practically possible (see figure 1). Although it seemed impossible during his lifetime, Loschmidt’s vision of reversing the momenta was realized by Erwin Hahn in 1950 in the spin-echo experiment, in which atomic spins that have dephased and become disordered are taken back to their earlier state by an RF pulse. If it is practically possible to reverse the momenta, what does that imply about equilibration? Is Loschmidt’s demon triumphant?

The demons haunting thermodynamics, Katie Robertson, Physics Today

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Cooling Teleportation...

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Image source: CERN - accelerating science

Topics: CERN, Condensed Matter Physics, Entanglement, Lasers, Quantum Mechanics

Much of modern experimental physics relies on a counterintuitive principle: Under the right circumstances, zapping matter with a laser doesn’t inject energy into the system; rather, it sucks the energy out. By cooling the system to a fraction of a degree above absolute zero, one can observe quantum effects that are otherwise invisible.

Laser cooling works like a charm, but only when a system’s ladder of quantum states is just right. Atoms of alkali metals and a few other elements are ideal. Molecules, with their multitudes of energy levels, pose a much greater challenge. And fundamental particles such as protons, which lack internal states altogether, can’t be laser-cooled at all.

Nevertheless, there’s a lot of interest in experimenting on protons at low temperature—in particular, precisely testing how their mass, magnetic moment, and other properties compare with those of antiprotons. Toward that end, the Baryon Antibaryon Symmetry Experiment (BASE) collaboration has now demonstrated a method for using a cloud of laser-cooled beryllium ions to sympathetically cool a single proton, even when the proton and ions are too distant to directly interact.

A superconducting circuit is a cooling teleporter, Johanna L. Miller, Physics Today

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Deux Ex Machina...

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Quasiparticles in motion: illustration of ghost polaritons in a calcite crystal being “launched” to record distances by a gold microdisk. (Courtesy: HUST)

Topics: Condensed Matter Physics, Modern Physics, Quantum Mechanics

The existence of ghost hyperbolic surface polaritons has been demonstrated by an international collaboration including researchers in China and the US. Based at Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST), National University of Singapore (NUS), National Center for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNST), and the City University of New York (CUNY), the team showed that the polariton – a hybrid light-matter quasiparticle – has a record-breaking propagation distance of three times its photon wavelength. This ghost polariton is an exciting discovery that has applications in sub-wavelength, low-loss imaging, sensing, and information transfer. The full study is described in Nature.

Previously, hyperbolic polaritons, which arise from the strong coupling of electromagnetic radiation to lattice vibrations (phonons) in anisotropic crystals, had only been observed in two forms: bulk polaritons and surface polaritons. Bulk, volume-confined, hyperbolic polaritons (v-HPs) have a real out-of-plane wavevector and hence can propagate within the material supporting them. Surface-confined hyperbolic polaritons (s-HPs), however, have an entirely imaginary out-of-plane wavevector, and so decay exponentially away from the crystal surface, a property called evanescence. The hyperbolic dispersion of these polaritons is the result of the crystal’s dielectric anisotropy, which results in hyperbolic isofrequency contours in k-space (momentum space) and concave wavefronts in real space.

Most studies on v-HPs and s-HPs have been performed in thin layers of van der Waals crystals. These crystals comprise stacks of covalently bound 2D layers that are held together by weak van der Waals forces. However, in such crystal layers, there is no control over the optical axis. This is the direction in which propagating light experiences no birefringence and it is typically aligned with the layers.

Ghost surface polaritons seen for the first time, Kirsty McGhee, Physics World

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Double Slit...

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Complementarity A new twist on the double-slit experiment. (Courtesy: Shutterstock/Andrey VP)

Topics: Modern Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Theoretical Physics

One of the most counterintuitive concepts in physics – the idea that quantum objects are complementary, behaving like waves in some situations and like particles in others – just got a new and more quantitative foundation. In a twist on the classic double-slit experiment, scientists at Korea’s Institute for Basic Sciences (IBS) used precisely controlled photon sources to measure a photon’s degree of wave-ness and particle-ness. Their results, published in Science Advances, show that the properties of the photon’s source influence its wave and particle character – a discovery that complicates and challenges the common understanding of complementarity.

The double-slit experiment is the archetypal example of complementarity at work. When a single photon encounters a barrier with two thin openings, it produces an interference pattern on a screen placed behind the openings – but only if the photon’s path is not observed. This interference pattern identifies the photon as a wave since a particle would create only one point of light on the screen. However, if detectors are placed at the openings to determine which slit the photon went through, the interference pattern disappears, and the photon behaves like a particle. The principle of complementarity states that both experimental outcomes are needed to fully understand the photon’s quantum nature.

Wave-particle duality quantified for the first time, Karmela Padavic-Callaghan, Physics World

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Flatland...

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Image Source: Link below

Topics: Particle Physics, Quantum Computer, Quantum Mechanics, Theoretical Physics

Flatland: “The book used the fictional two-dimensional world of Flatland to comment on the hierarchy of Victorian culture, but the novella’s more enduring contribution is its examination of dimensions.” Source: Wikipedia

After decades of exploration in nature’s smallest domains, physicists have finally found evidence that anyons exist. First predicted by theorists in the early 1980s, these particle-like objects only arise in realms confined to two dimensions, and then only under certain circumstances — like at temperatures near absolute zero and in the presence of a strong magnetic field.

Physicists are excited about anyons not only because their discovery confirms decades of theoretical work, but also for practical reasons. For example, Anyons are at the heart of an effort by Microsoft to build a working quantum computer.

This year brought two solid confirmations of the quasiparticles. The first arrived in April, in a paper featured on the cover of Science, from a group of researchers at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. Using an approach proposed four years ago, physicists sent an electron gas through a teeny-tiny particle collider to tease out weird behaviors — especially fractional electric charges — that only arise if anyons are around. The second confirmation came in July when a group at Purdue University in Indiana used an experimental setup on an etched chip that screened out interactions that might obscure anyon behavior.

MIT physicist Frank Wilczek, who predicted and named anyons in the early 1980s, credits the first paper as the discovery but says the second lets the quasiparticles shine. “It’s gorgeous work that makes the field blossom,” he says. Anyons aren’t like ordinary elementary particles; scientists will never be able to isolate one from the system where it forms. They’re quasiparticles, which means they have measurable properties like a particle — such as a location, maybe even a mass — but they’re only observable as a result of the collective behavior of other, conventional particles. (Think of the intricate geometric shapes made by group behavior in nature, such as flocks of birds flying in formation or schools of fish swimming as one.)

The known universe contains only two varieties of elementary particles. One is the family of fermions, which includes electrons, as well as protons, neutrons, and the quarks that form them. Fermions keep to themselves: No two can exist in the same quantum state at the same time. If these particles didn’t have this property, all matter could simply collapse to a single point. It’s because of fermions that solid matter exists.

The rest of the particles in the universe are bosons, a group that includes particles like photons (the messengers of light and radiation) and gluons (which “glue” quarks together). Unlike fermions, two or more bosons can exist in the same state at the same time. They tend to clump together. It’s because of this clumping that we have lasers, which are streams of photons all occupying the same quantum state.

Physicists prove the existence of two-dimensional particles called 'anyons', Stephen Omes, Astronomy (December 2020)

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Breaking Physics...

 

Topics: Quantum Computer, Quantum Mechanics, Thermodynamics

In what could prove to be a momentous accomplishment for fundamental physics and quantum physics, scientists say they’ve finally figured out how to manufacture a scientific oddity called a time crystal.

Time crystals harness a quirk of physics in which they remain ever-changing yet dynamically stable. In other words, they don’t give off energy as they change conformation, making them an apparent violation of the natural law that all things gradually turn towards entropy and disorder.

Now, it seems like it’s possible for these things to exist, after all, Quanta Magazine reports. At least, that’s according to what a massive team of researchers from Stanford, Princeton, and elsewhere working with Google’s quantum computing labs claimed in preprint research shared online last week. Aside from being an incredible scientific discovery in abstract — time crystals represent a new, bizarre phase of matter — the discovery could have profound implications for the finicky world of quantum computing.

“The consequence is amazing: You evade the second law of thermodynamics,” study coauthor and Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems director Roderich Moessner told Quanta.

Google Claims To Create Time Crystals Inside Quantum Computer, Dan Robitzski, Futurism

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The Weirdest Matter...

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This simulation shows how a fracton-filled material would be expected to scatter a beam of neutrons.
H. Yan et al., Physical Review Letters

 

Topics: Condensed Matter Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Theoretical Physics

Your desk is made up of individual, distinct atoms, but from far away its surface appears smooth. This simple idea is at the core of all our models of the physical world. We can describe what’s happening overall without getting bogged down in the complicated interactions between every atom and electron.

So when a new theoretical state of matter was discovered whose microscopic features stubbornly persist at all scales, many physicists refused to believe in its existence.

“When I first heard about fractons, I said there’s no way this could be true because it completely defies my prejudice of how systems behave,” said Nathan Seiberg, a theoretical physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. “But I was wrong. I realized I had been living in denial.”

The theoretical possibility of fractons surprised physicists in 2011. Recently, these strange states of matter have been leading physicists toward new theoretical frameworks that could help them tackle some of the grittiest problems in fundamental physics.

Fractons are quasiparticles — particle-like entities that emerge out of complicated interactions between many elementary particles inside a material. But fractons are bizarre even compared to other exotic quasiparticles because they are totally immobile or able to move only in a limited way. There’s nothing in their environment that stops fractons from moving; rather it’s an inherent property of theirs. It means fractons’ microscopic structure influences their behavior over long distances.

“That’s totally shocking. For me it is the weirdest phase of matter,” said Xie Chen, a condensed matter theorist at the California Institute of Technology.

The ‘Weirdest’ Matter, Made of Partial Particles, Defies Description, Thomas Lewton, Quanta Magazine

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Space-Based Quantum Technology...

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(Credit: Yurchanka Siarhei/Shutterstock)

Topics: Computer Science, Quantum Computer, Quantum Mechanics

Quantum technologies are already revolutionizing life on Earth. But they also have the potential to change the way we operate in space. With the U.S., China, and Europe all investing heavily in this area, these changes are likely to be with us sooner rather than later.

So how will space-based quantum technologies make a difference?

Now, we get an overview thanks to the work of Rainer Kaltenbaek at the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information, in Austria, and colleagues throughout Europe, who have mapped out the future in this area and set out the advances that space-based quantum technologies will make possible.

While quantum computing and quantum communication grab most of the headlines, Kaltenbaek and colleagues point out that other quantum technologies are set to have equally impressive impacts. Take, for example, atom interferometry with quantum sensors.

These devices can measure with unprecedented accuracy any change in motion of a satellite in orbit as it is buffeted by tiny variations in the Earth’s gravitational field. These changes are caused by factors such as the movement of cooler, higher-density water flows in the deep ocean, flooding, the movement of the continents, and ice flows.

The Future of Space-Based Quantum Technology, Discover/Physics arXiv

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Quantum Microscope...

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Artist’s impression of UQ’s new quantum microscope in action. Credit: The University of Queensland

Topics: Biology, Biotechnology, Instrumentation, Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Optics

In a major scientific leap, University of Queensland researchers have created a quantum microscope that can reveal biological structures that would otherwise be impossible to see.

This paves the way for applications in biotechnology, and could extend far beyond this into areas ranging from navigation to medical imaging.

The microscope is powered by the science of quantum entanglement, an effect Einstein described as “spooky interactions at a distance.”

Professor Warwick Bowen, from UQ’s Quantum Optics Lab and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS), said it was the first entanglement-based sensor with performance beyond the best possible existing technology.

“This breakthrough will spark all sorts of new technologies — from better navigation systems to better MRI machines, you name it,” Professor Bowen said.

“Entanglement is thought to lie at the heart of a quantum revolution. We’ve finally demonstrated that sensors that use it can supersede existing, non-quantum technology.

“This is exciting — it’s the first proof of the paradigm-changing potential of entanglement for sensing.”

Major Scientific Leap: Quantum Microscope Created That Can See the Impossible, University of Queensland

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Muon g-2...

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Feynman QED Diagram: Fermilab

Topics: Modern Physics, Particle Physics, Quantum Mechanics

Solving a mystery

More than 200 scientists from around the world are collaborating with Fermilab on the Muon g-2 physics experiment which probes fundamental properties of matter and space. Muon g-2 (pronounced gee minus two) allows researchers to peer into the subatomic world to search for undiscovered particles that may be hiding in the vacuum.

Residing at Fermilab's Muon Campus, the experiment uses the Fermilab accelerator complex to produce an intense beam of muons traveling at nearly the speed of light. Scientists will use the beam to precisely determine the value of a property known as the g-2 of the muon.

The muon, like its lighter sibling the electron, acts like a spinning magnet. The parameter known as "g" indicates how strong the magnet is and the rate of its gyration. The value of the muon's g is slightly larger than 2. This difference from 2 is caused by the presence of virtual particles that appear from the quantum vacuum and then quickly disappear into it again.

In measuring g-2 with high precision and comparing its value to the theoretical prediction, physicists aim to discover whether the experiment agrees with the theory. Any deviation would point to as yet undiscovered subatomic particles that exist in nature.

An experiment that concluded in 2001 at Brookhaven National Laboratory found a tantalizing 3.7 sigma (standard deviation) discrepancy between the theoretical calculation and the measurement of the muon g-2. With a four-fold increase in the measurement's precision, Muon g-2 will be more sensitive to virtual or hidden particles and forces than any previous experiment of its kind and can bring this discrepancy to the 5 sigma discovery level.

The centerpiece of the Muon g-2 experiment at Fermilab is a large, 50-foot-diameter superconducting muon storage ring. This one-of-a-kind ring, made of steel, aluminum, and superconducting wire, was built for the previous g-2 experiment at Brookhaven. The ring was moved from Brookhaven to Fermilab in 2013. Making use of Fermilab's intense particle beams, scientists will be able to significantly increase the science output of this unique instrument. The experiment started taking data in 2018.

U.S. Department of Energy - Fermilab: Muon g - 2

 

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Colloidal Quantum Dots...

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FIG. 1. (a) Schematic of La Mer and Dinegar's model for the synthesis of monodispersed CQDs. (b) Representation of the apparatus employed for CQD synthesis. Reproduced with permission from Murray et al., Annu. Rev. Mater Res. 30(1), 545–610 (2000). Copyright 2000 Annual Reviews.

Topics: Energy, Materials Science, Nanotechnology, Quantum Mechanics, Solar Power

ABSTRACT
Solution-processed colloidal quantum dot (CQD) solar cells are lightweight, flexible, inexpensive, and can be spray-coated on various substrates. However, their power conversion efficiency is still insufficient for commercial applications. To further boost CQD solar cell efficiency, researchers need to better understand and control how charge carriers and excitons transport in CQD thin films, i.e., the CQD solar cell electrical parameters including carrier lifetime, diffusion length, diffusivity, mobility, drift length, trap state density, and doping density. These parameters play key roles in determining CQD thin film thickness and surface passivation ligands in CQD solar cell fabrication processes. To characterize these CQD solar cell parameters, researchers have mostly used transient techniques, such as short-circuit current/open-circuit voltage decay, photoconductance decay, and time-resolved photoluminescence. These transient techniques based on the time-dependent excess carrier density decay generally exhibit an exponential profile, but they differ in the signal collection physics and can only be used in some particular scenarios. Furthermore, photovoltaic characterization techniques are moving from contact to non-contact, from steady-state to dynamic, and from small-spot testing to large-area imaging; what are the challenges, limitations, and prospects? To answer these questions, this Tutorial, in the context of CQD thin film and solar cell characterization, looks at trends in characterization technique development by comparing various conventional techniques in meeting research and/or industrial demands. For a good physical understanding of material properties, the basic physics of CQD materials and devices are reviewed first, followed by a detailed discussion of various characterization techniques and their suitability for CQD photovoltaic devices.

Advanced characterization methods of carrier transport in quantum dot photovoltaic solar cells, Lilei Hu, Andreas Mandelis, Journal of Applied Physics

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No Strings Attached...

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Image Source: Physicist finds loose thread of string theory puzzle, Cay Leytham-Powell, University of Colorado at Boulder, Phys.org

Topics: Einstein, General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, String Theory

For decades, most physicists have agreed that string theory is the missing link between Einstein's theory of general relativity, describing the laws of nature at the largest scale, and quantum mechanics, describing them at the smallest scale. However, an international collaboration headed by Radboud physicists has now provided compelling evidence that string theory is not the only theory that could form the link. They demonstrated that it is possible to construct a theory of quantum gravity that obeys all fundamental laws of physics, without strings. They described their findings in Physical Review Letters last week.

When we observe gravity at work in our universe, such as the motion of planets or light passing close to a black hole, everything seems to follow the laws written down by Einstein in his theory of general relativity. On the other hand, quantum mechanics is a theory that describes the physical properties of nature at the smallest scale of atoms and subatomic particles. Though these two theories have allowed us to explain every fundamental physical phenomenon observed, they also contradict each other. As of today, physicists have severe difficulties to reconcile the two theories to explain gravity on both the largest and smallest scale.

Explaining gravity without string theory, Radboud University, Phys.org

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Quasiparticles, and Graphene...

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Telltale traces In this doping vs magnetic field conductance map, the magnetic field is varied along the vertical axis. Horizontal yellow streaks show Brown-Zak fermions propagating along straight trajectories with high mobility (low resistance), whereas slanted indigo lines show the cyclotron motion around Brown-Zak fermions. The slope of these lines enabled the researchers to obtain the degeneracy (and find an additional quantum number) of these new quasiparticles. (Courtesy: J Barrier)

Topics: Fermions, Graphene, Nanotechnology, Quantum Mechanics

Researchers at the University of Manchester in the UK have identified a new family of quasiparticles in superlattices made from graphene sandwiched between two slabs of boron nitride. The work is important for fundamental studies of condensed-matter physics and could also lead to the development of improved transistors capable of operating at higher frequencies.

In recent years, physicists and materials scientists have been studying ways to use the weak (van der Waals) coupling between atomically thin layers of different crystals to create new materials in which electronic properties can be manipulated without chemical doping. The most famous example is graphene (a sheet of carbon just one atom thick) encapsulated between another 2D material, hexagonal boron nitride (hBN), which has a similar lattice constant. Since both materials also have similar hexagonal structures, regular moiré patterns (or “superlattices”) form when the two lattices are overlaid.

If the stacked layers of graphene-hBN are then twisted, and the angle between the two materials’ lattices decreases, the size of the superlattice increases. This causes electronic band gaps to develop through the formation of additional Bloch bands in the superlattice’s Brillouin zone (a mathematical construct that describes the fundamental ideas of electronic energy bands). In these Bloch bands, electrons move in a periodic electric potential that matches the lattice and does not interact with one another.

New family of quasiparticles appears in graphene, Isabelle Dumé, Physics World

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Integrated Nanodiamonds...

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Nanophotonic integration for simultaneously controlling a large number of quantum mechanical spins in nanodiamonds. (Image: P. Schrinner/AG Schuck)

Topics: Nanotechnology, Quantum Computer, Quantum Mechanics, Semiconductor Technology

(Nanowerk News) Physicists at Münster University have succeeded in fully integrating nanodiamonds into nanophotonic circuits and at the same time addressing several of these nanodiamonds optically. The study creates the basis for future applications in the field of quantum sensing schemes or quantum information processors.

The results have been published in the journal Nano Letters ("Integration of Diamond-Based Quantum Emitters with Nanophotonic Circuits").

Using modern nanotechnology, it is possible nowadays to produce structures that have feature sizes of just a few nanometers.

This world of the most minute particles – also known as quantum systems – makes possible a wide range of technological applications, in fields which include magnetic field sensing, information processing, secure communication, or ultra-precise timekeeping. The production of these microscopically small structures has progressed so far that they reach dimensions below the wavelength of light.

In this way, it is possible to break down hitherto existent boundaries in optics and utilize the quantum properties of light. In other words, nanophotonics represents a novel approach to quantum technologies.

Controlling fully integrated nanodiamonds, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

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