False-color image of a laser beam exhibiting a superposition of 100 right-handed and 100 left-handed quanta of orbital angular momenta, resulting in 100+100=200 bright spots on the inner ring
Credit: Robert Fickler, University of Vienna
A long-exposure photo of laser light in 'donut modes' (light beams with no intensity in the middle).
Credit: Robert Fickler, University of Vienna
The question of whether or not entanglement is limited to tiny objects or very small quantum numbers came up already in the early days of quantum physics. Now, the Vienna group has taken the first step for testing quantum mechanical entanglement with rotating photons.
To illustrate, a quantum mechanical figure skater would have the uncanny ability to pirouette both clockwise and counter-clockwise simultaneously. Moreover, the direction of her rotations would be correlated with the twirls of another, entangled, skater – even if the two ice dancers whirl far removed from each other, in ice rinks on different continents.
The faster the two quantum skaters pirouette, the larger is the quantum number of their rotation direction, the so-called angular momentum. "In our experiment, we entangled the largest quantum numbers of any kind of particle ever measured," declares Zeilinger with a wry smile.Could quantum ice dancers exist in reality?
From fundamental research to technical applications
In addition to the fundamental issue of the limits of macroscopic entanglement, the physicists address possibilities of potential applications. They are, for example, able to use the created photons for very precise angular measurements already at low intensities of light. This feature is of advantage in particular when investigating light sensitive materials, as for example some biological substances. "The special features of entanglement provide the fantastic possibility to perform such measurements from arbitrary distances and without any contact whatsoever with the measured object, or even at a point in time that lies in the future!" Fickler explains.
This research was supported by the European Research Council (ERC) and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).Publication:
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