The quantum tunnel effect manifests itself in a multitude of well-known phenomena.
Experimental physicists in Innsbruck, Austria, have now directly observed quantum particles transmitting through a whole series of up to five potential barriers under conditions where a single particle could not do the move.
One of the most remarkable consequences of the rules in quantum mechanics is the capability of a quantum particle to penetrate through a potential barrier even though its energy would not allow for the corresponding classical trajectory. This is known as the quantum tunnel effect and manifests itself in a multitude of well-known phenomena.
For example, it explains nuclear radioactive decay, fusion reactions in the interior of stars, and electron transport through quantum dots. Tunneling also is at the heart of many technical applications, for instance it allows for imaging of surfaces on the atomic length scale in scanning tunneling microscopes.
All the above systems have in common that they essentially represent the very fundamental paradigm of the tunnel effect: a single particle that penetrates through a single barrier. Now, the team of Hanns-Christoph Nägerl, Institute for Experimental Physics of the University of Innsbruck, Austria, has directly observed tunneling dynamics in a much more intriguing system:
They see quantum particles transmitting through a whole series of up to five potential barriers under conditions where a single particle could not do the move. Instead the particles need to help each other via their strong mutual interactions and via an effect known as Bose enhancement.
In their experiment the scientists place a gas of Cesium atoms at extremely low temperatures just above absolute zero temperature into a potential landscape that is deliberately engineered by laser light. This so-called optical lattice forms a regular and perfect structure constituting the multiple tunneling barriers, similar to a washboard.
As temperatures are so low and thus the atoms’ kinetic energies are so tiny, the only way to move across the washboard is via tunneling through the barriers. The tunneling motion is initiated by applying a directed force onto the atoms along one of the lattice axes, that is, by tilting the washboard.
It is now one of the crucial points in the experiment that the physicists control through how many barriers the particles penetrate by the interplay between the interaction and the strength of the force in conjunction with Bose enhancement as a result of the particles’ quantum indistinguishability.
Very similar to a massive object moving in the earth’s gravitational field, the tunneling atoms should loose potential energy when they move down the washboard. But where can they deposit this energy in such a perfect and frictionless environment?
It’s the interaction energy between the atoms when they share the same site of the lattice that compensates for the potential energy. As a result, the physicists found that the tunneling motion leads to discrete resonances corresponding to the number of barriers the particles penetrate through.
It is left for the future to explore the role of such long-range tunneling processes for lattice systems with ultracold atoms in the context of quantum simulation and quantum information processing, or for different physical settings, for instance electronic quantum devices, molecular or even biological systems.
Publication: Observation of many-body dynamics in long-range tunneling after a quantum quench. Florian Meinert, Manfred J. Mark, Emil Kirilov, Katharina Lauber, Philipp Weinmann, Michael Gröbner, Andrew J. Daley, Hanns-Christoph Nägerl. Science 2014 DOI: 10.1126/science.1248402 (arXiv:1312.2758)
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Hanns-Christoph Nägerl
Institute for Experimental Physics
University of Innsbruck
phone: +43 512 507 52420
University of Innsbruck
phone: +43 512 507 32022
http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1248402 - Observation of many-body dynamics in long-range tunneling after a quantum quench. Florian Meinert, Manfred J. Mark, Emil Kirilov, Katharina Lauber, Philipp Weinmann, Michael Gröbner, Andrew J. Daley, Hanns-Christoph Nägerl. Science 2014
Dr. Christian Flatz | Universität Innsbruck
Fundamental observation of spin-controlled electrical conduction in metals
07.07.2015 | Max-Planck-Institut für Polymerforschung
Light-induced Magnetic Waves in Materials Engineered at the Atomic Scale
07.07.2015 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie
Researchers explore ultrafast control of magnetism across interfaces: A new study discovers how the sudden excitation of lattice vibrations in a crystal can trigger a change of the magnetic properties of an atomically-thin layer that lies on its surface.
A research team, led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter at CFEL in Hamburg, the University of Oxford, and the...
Wind turbines could be installed under some of the biggest bridges on the road network to produce electricity. So it is confirmed by calculations carried out by a European researchers team, that have taken a viaduct in the Canary Islands as a reference. This concept could be applied in heavily built-up territories or natural areas with new constructions limitations.
The Juncal Viaduct, in Gran Canaria, has served as a reference for Spanish and British researchers to verify that the wind blowing between the pillars on this...
New technique combines electron microscopy and synchrotron X-rays to track chemical reactions under real operating conditions
A new technique pioneered at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory reveals atomic-scale changes during catalytic reactions in real...
Think of an object made of iron: An I-beam, a car frame, a nail. Now imagine that half of the iron in that object owes its existence to bacteria living two and a half billion years ago.
Think of an object made of iron: An I-beam, a car frame, a nail. Now imagine that half of the iron in that object owes its existence to bacteria living two and...
A team of scientists including PhD student Friedrich Schuler from the Laboratory of MEMS Applications at the Department of Microsystems Engineering (IMTEK) of...
25.06.2015 | Event News
16.06.2015 | Event News
11.06.2015 | Event News
07.07.2015 | Health and Medicine
07.07.2015 | Health and Medicine
07.07.2015 | Materials Sciences