Now a team of Yale physicists has used lasers for a completely different purpose, employing them to cool molecules down to temperatures near what’s known as absolute zero, about -460 degrees Fahrenheit. Their new method for laser cooling, described in the online edition of the journal Nature, is a significant step toward the ultimate goal of using individual molecules as information bits in quantum computing.
Currently, scientists use either individual atoms or “artificial atoms” as qubits, or quantum bits, in their efforts to develop quantum processors. But individual atoms don’t communicate as strongly with one another as is needed for qubits. On the other hand, artificial atoms—which are actually circuit-like devices made up of billions of atoms that are designed to behave like a single atom—communicate strongly with one another, but are so large they tend to pick up interference from the outside world. Molecules, however, could provide an ideal middle ground.
“It’s a kind of Goldilocks problem,” said Yale physicist David DeMille, who led the research. “Artificial atoms may prove too big and individual atoms may prove too small, but molecules made up of a few different atoms could be just right.”
In order to use molecules as qubits, physicists first have to be able to control and manipulate them—an extremely difficult feat, as molecules generally cannot be picked up or moved without disturbing their quantum properties. In addition, even at room temperature molecules have a lot of kinetic energy, which causes them to move, rotate and vibrate.
To overcome the problem, the Yale team pushed the molecules using the subtle kick delivered by a steady stream of photons, or particles of light, emitted by a laser. Using laser beams to hit the molecules from opposite directions, they were able to reduce the random velocities of the molecules. The technique is known as laser cooling because temperature is a direct measurement of the velocities in the motion of a group of molecules. Reducing the molecules’ motions to almost nothing is equivalent to driving their temperatures to virtually absolute zero.
While scientists had previously been able to cool individual atoms using lasers, the discovery by the Yale team represents the first time that lasers have just as successfully cooled molecules, which present unique challenges because of their more complex structures.
The team used the molecule strontium monofluoride in their experiments, but DeMille believes the technique will also prove successful with other molecules. Beyond quantum computing, laser cooling molecules has potential applications in chemistry, where near absolute zero temperatures could induce currently inaccessible reactions via a quantum mechanical process known as “quantum tunneling.” DeMille also hopes to use laser cooling to study particle physics, where precise measurements of molecular structure could give clues as to the possible existence of exotic, as of yet undiscovered particles.
“Laser cooling of atoms has created a true scientific revolution. It is now used in areas ranging from basic science such as Bose-Einstein condensation, all the way to devices with real-world impacts such as atomic clocks and navigation instruments,” DeMille said. “The extension of this technique to molecules promises to open an exciting new range of scientific and technological applications.”
Other authors of the paper include Edward Shuman and John Barry (both of Yale University).
Taylor Muzzin | EurekAlert!
Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world
08.02.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Werkstoff- und Strahltechnik IWS
New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components
23.01.2017 | Evonik Industries AG
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences