Quantum technologies make use of the molecular scale properties of matter. At this scale, which is different from our everyday world, matter behaves according to the rules of quantum mechanics. Although the rules are well understood, the tools required to control quantum processes are still under development. Quantum technologies aim to manipulate molecular scale behaviour, in a way not usually seen in nature, for fundamentally new applications.
For example, methods to implement quantum information/computation (i.e. computers based upon quantum rules) are the subject of an international race to harness the power of this new technology. Another example of quantum technology is the control of chemical reactions using laser light, the example chosen by the NRC researchers to illustrate their new approach.
A chemical reaction, in which a starting molecule is converted to a product, follows path that seems to a molecule like a hill it must 'ski' down, as shown in the figure. Here a molecule would normally react by heading down the hill towards valley B. The NRC team describes an experiment that is analogous to the 'Labyrinth' game in which a player controls the tilt of a board in order to guide a steel ball through a maze of holes; in this case a molecular scale game. The knob the researchers used is an ultrafast laser pulse (shown here as a wiggly black arrow) which re-shapes the hill (or tilts the board) as the molecule is sliding down the slope, using an interaction called the Dynamic Stark Effect. In this molecular 'Labyrinth' game, the interaction deflects the reacting molecule towards valley A rather than valley B. The breaking of the chemical bond associated with this process is illustrated on the left. A key aspect of the NRC approach is that the molecule does not absorb the laser light during this re-shaping. The absorption of the laser light would be equivalent to moving the molecule to a different hill instead of tilting the one it is on. This would generally lead to products other than the A or B products indicated in the figure. The avoidance of light absorption is important because different molecules absorb different colours of light, so it is impossible to find an absorption method that works the same for all molecules. Thus, the new NRC method of 'tilting the hill', based on the Dynamic Stark Effect, should be applicable to control of a broad range of quantum processes.
According to Albert Stolow, the NRC team leader, the tool used to alter molecular landscapes has implications beyond the control of chemical reactions. One example already mentioned is in the area of quantum information either to directly encode molecular scale information or to control molecular scale switches. Another application is in developing novel forms of optical microscopy of live cells, where quantum control methods can be used to sharpen images, enhance sensitivity and perhaps even perform molecular scale surgery on individual cells. The electric interaction underlying the NRC technique is an essential tool on the quantum mechanic's workbench. Its application to science and technology could reach deep into the quantum world of the ultrasmall.
Dr. Albert Stolow | EurekAlert!
Researchers invent tiny, light-powered wires to modulate brain's electrical signals
21.02.2018 | University of Chicago
The “Holy Grail” of peptide chemistry: Making peptide active agents available orally
21.02.2018 | Technische Universität München
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
21.02.2018 | Life Sciences
21.02.2018 | Life Sciences
21.02.2018 | Materials Sciences