In the quantum world, our intuition for moving objects is strongly challenged and may sometimes even completely fail. Experimental physicists of the University of Innsbruck in collaboration with theorists from Munich, Paris and Cambridge have found a quantum particle which shows an intriguing oscillatory back-and-forth motion in a one-dimensional atomic gas.
A ripe apple falling from a tree has inspired Sir Isaac Newton to formulate a theory that describes the motion of objects subject to a force. Newton’s equations of motion tell us that a moving body keeps on moving on a straight line unless any disturbing force may change its path.
The impact of Newton’s laws is ubiquitous in our everyday experience, ranging from a skydiver falling in the earth's gravitational field, over the inertia one feels in an accelerating airplane, to the earth orbiting around the sun.
In the quantum world, however, our intuition for the motion of objects is strongly challenged and may sometimes even completely fail. What about imagining a marble falling through water oscillating up and down rather than just moving straight downwards? Sounds strange.
Yet, that's what experimental physicist from Innsbruck in collaboration with theorists from Munich, Paris and Cambridge have discovered for a quantum particle. At the heart of this surprising behavior is what physicists call ‘quantum interference’, the fact that quantum mechanics allows particles to behave like waves, which can add up or cancel each other.
Approaching absolute zero temperature
To observe the quantum particle oscillating back and forth the team had to cool a gas of Cesium atoms just above absolute zero temperature and to confine it to an arrangement of very thin tubes realized by high-power laser beams. By means of a special trick, the atoms were made to interact strongly with each other. At such extreme conditions the atoms form a quantum fluid whose motion is restricted to the direction of the tubes.
The physicists then accelerated an impurity atom, which is an atom in a different spin state, through the gas. As this quantum particle moved, it was observed to scatter off the gas particles and to reflect backwards. This led to an oscillatory motion, in contrast to what a marble would do when falling in water. The experiment demonstrates that Newton's laws cannot be used in the quantum realm.
Quantum fluids sometimes act like crystals
The fact that a quantum-wave may get reflected into certain directions has been known since the early days of the development of the theory of quantum mechanics. For example, electrons reflect at the regular pattern of solid crystals, such as a piece of metal. This effect is termed ‘Bragg-scattering’. However, the surprise in the experiment performed in Innsbruck was that no such crystal was present for the impurity to reflect off.
Instead, it was the gas of atoms itself that provided a type of hidden order in its arrangement, a property that physicist dub ‘correlations’. The Innsbruck work has demonstrated how these correlations in combination with the wave-nature of matter determine the motion of particles in the quantum world and lead to novel and exciting phenomena that counteract the experiences from our daily life.
Understanding the oddity of quantum mechanics may also be relevant in a broader scope, and help to understand and optimize fundamental processes in electronics components, or even transport processes in complex biological systems.
The research was funded by the European Research Council (ERC) and the Austrian Science Foundation (FWF), the Institute for Advanced Study at TUM, the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), as well as Harvard-MIT CUA, the National Science Foundation (USA), AFOSR, the Humboldt Foundation, and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics.
Publication: Bloch oscillations in the absence of a lattice. Florian Meinert, Michael Knap, Emil Kirilov, Katharina Jag-Lauber, Mikhail B. Zvonarev, Eugene Demler, Hanns-Christoph Nägerl. Science 2017. DOI: 10.1126/science.aah6616
Department of Experimental Physics
University of Innsbruck
phone: +43 512 507-52420
Public Relations Office
University of Innsbruck
phone: +43 512 507 32022
http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aah6616 - Bloch oscillations in the absence of a lattice. Florian Meinert, Michael Knap, Emil Kirilov, Katharina Jag-Lauber, Mikhail B. Zvonarev, Eugene Demler, Hanns-Christoph Nägerl. Science 2017
http://www.ultracold.at/ - Ultracold Atoms and Quantum Gases Group
http://www.uibk.ac.at/exphys/ - Department of Experimental Physics
Dr. Christian Flatz | Universität Innsbruck
New material for splitting water
19.06.2018 | American Institute of Physics
Carbon nanotube optics provide optical-based quantum cryptography and quantum computing
19.06.2018 | DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory
Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...
Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.
Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...
The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.
Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.
An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.
Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...
Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...
13.06.2018 | Event News
08.06.2018 | Event News
05.06.2018 | Event News
19.06.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
19.06.2018 | Life Sciences
19.06.2018 | Physics and Astronomy