Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Physicists discover how fundamental particles lose track of quantum mechanical properties

In today’s Science Express, the advance online publication of the journal Science, researchers report a series of experiments that mark an important step toward understanding a longstanding fundamental physics problem of quantum mechanics. The scientists presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society here this week.

The problem the physicists addressed is how a fundamental particle in matter loses track of its quantum mechanical properties through interactions with its environment.

The research was performed by scientists at the California NanoSystems Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara and the U. S. Department of Energy Ames Laboratory in Iowa.

At the quantum level things like particles or light waves behave in ways very different from what scientists expect in a human-scale world. In the quantum world, for example, an electron can exist in two places at the same time, what is called a "superposition" of states, or spin up and down at the same time.

Quantum mechanics in computing could lead to communication with no possible eavesdropping, lightning-fast database searches, and code-cracking ability.

The answer to the problem the researchers have tackled is key to unraveling how the classical world in which we live emerges from all the interacting quantum particles in matter. This scientific query surrounds the basic quantum dynamics of a single particle spin coupled to a collection, or bath, of random spins. This scenario describes the underlying behavior of a broad class of materials around us, ranging from quantum spin tunneling in magnetic molecules to nuclear magnetic resonance in semiconductors.

“We were stunned by these unexpected experimental results, and extremely excited by the ability to control and monitor single quantum states, especially at room temperature,” said author David Awschalom, a professor of physics at UC Santa Barbara. Awschalom is affiliated with the California NanoSystems Institute at UCSB and is the Director of the Center for Spintronics & Quantum Computation, also at the university.

Recently the issue of how fundamental particles lose track of quantum mechanical properties through interaction with the environment has gained crucial importance in the field of quantum information. In this area, robust manipulation of quantum states promises enormous speedups over classical computation. Keeping track of the quantum phase is essential for keeping the quantum information, and insight into loss of the phase will greatly help to mitigate this process.

Experimental work on this subject has thus far been hindered by the lack of high-fidelity coherent control of a single spin in nature and our inability to directly influence the bath dynamics.

In a collaboration between physicists in Awschalom’s research group at UCSB and Slava Dobrovitski, a visiting scientist from Ames Laboratory in Iowa, a series of experiments were undertaken that utilized electron spins in diamond to investigate different regimes of spin-bath interactions, and provide much information about the decoherence dynamics.

The scientists use diamond crystals to study a single electron spin tied to an adjustable collection of nearby spins. Two features of diamond that make this system viable for unprecedented investigations into the coherent dynamics are the precise optical control of a single spin that is unique to diamond, and the magnetic tunability of the spin-bath and intrabath dynamics with small permanent magnets. Their team’s observations contain a number of extraordinary discoveries, such as the time-dependent disappearance and reappearance of quantum oscillations of the spins in the diamond lattice.

“To our surprise, when looking at longer times, the oscillations disappeared then re-appeared,” said co-author Ronald Hanson, a postdoctoral student at UCSB during this period who is now a professor at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience Delft, at Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands. “At first it looked like an artifact, but repeated measurements reproduced this behavior.”

The problem of a single spin coupled to a bath of spins has been the subject of an intense international research effort, as this conceptual framework describes the physical behavior of a number of real systems. Among others, these include atomic and electronic spins that are prime candidates for implementing quantum information processors and coherent spintronics devices.

A series of direct experiments coupled to theoretical simulations demonstrate that spins in diamond serve as a nearly ideal, adjustable, model of central spin.

“This work demonstrates a rare level of synergy between experiment, analytical theory, and computer simulations,” said Dobrovitski. “These three constituents all agree, support, and complement each other. Together, they give a lucid qualitative picture of what happens with spin centers in diamond, and, at the same time, provide a quantitatively accurate description. This agreement is hard to anticipate in advance for such complex systems, where many nuclear and electron quantum spins interact with each other.”

Studies of the quantum dynamics of spins in diamond is an emerging topic involving several leading research groups worldwide. It may also be important in the context of recent interest in possible carbon-based electronic devices employing carbon nanotubes and/or graphene.

Gail Gallessich | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht 'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region
16.03.2018 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht Fraunhofer HHI have developed a novel single-polarization Kramers-Kronig receiver scheme
16.03.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Nachrichtentechnik, Heinrich-Hertz-Institut, HHI

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>