Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Squeezed quantum cats

27.05.2015

Quantum physics is full of fascinating phenomena. Take, for instance, the cat from the famous thought experiment by the physicist Erwin Schrodinger. The cat can be dead and alive at once, since its life depends on the quantum mechanically determined state of a radioactively decaying atom which, in turn, releases toxic gas into the cat's cage. As long as one hasn't measured the state of the atom, one knows nothing about the poor cat's health either - atom and kitty are intimately "entangled" with each other.

Equally striking, if less well known, are the so-called squeezed quantum states: Normally, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle means that one cannot measure the values of certain pairs of physical quantities, such as the position and velocity of a quantum particle, with arbitrary precision. Nevertheless, nature allows a barter trade:


The scientists used this ion trap to create the new quantum states.

Credit: ETH Zurich

If the particle has been appropriately prepared, then one of the quantities can be measured a little more exactly if one is willing to accept a less precise knowledge of the other quantity. In this case the preparation of the particle is known as "squeezing" because the uncertainty in one variable is reduced (squeezed).

Schrödinger's cat and squeezed quantum states are both important physical phenomena that lie at the heart of promising technologies of the future. Researchers at the ETH were now able successfully to combine both in a single experiment.

Squeezing and shifting

In their laboratory, Jonathan Home, professor of experimental quantum optics and photonics, and his colleagues catch a single electrically charged calcium ion in a tiny cage made of electric fields. Using laser beams they cool the ion down until it hardly moves inside the cage. Now the researchers reach into their bag of tricks: they "squeeze" the state of motion of the ion by shining laser light on it and by skilfully using the spontaneous decay of its energy states.

Eventually the ion's wave function (which corresponds to the probability of finding it at a certain point in space) is literally squashed: now the physicists have a better idea of where the ion is located in space, but the uncertainty in its velocity has increased proportionately. "This state squeezing is an important tool for us", Jonathan Home explains. "Together with a second tool - the so-called state-dependent forces - we are now able to produce a "squeezed Schrödinger cat" ".

To that end the ion is once more exposed to laser beams that move it to the left or to the right. The direction of the forces induced by the laser depends on the internal energy state of the ion. This energy state can be represented by an arrow pointing up or down, also called a spin. If the ion is in an energy superposition state composed of "spin up" and "spin down", the force acts both to the left and to the right. In this way, a peculiar situation is created that is similar to Schrödinger's cat: the ion now finds itself in a hybrid state of being on the right (cat is alive) and on the left (cat is dead) at the same time. Only when one measures the spin does the ion decide whether to be on the right or on the left.

Stable cats for quantum computers

The Schrödinger cat prepared by professor Home and his collaborators is special in that the initial squeezing makes the ion states "left" and "right" particularly easy to distinguish. At the same time, it is also pretty large as the two ion states are far apart. "Even without the squeezing our "cat" is the largest one produced to date", Home points out.

"With the squeezing, the states "left" and "right" are even more distinguishable - they are as much as sixty times narrower than the separation between them". All this isn't just about scientific records, however, but also about practical applications. Squeezed Schrödinger cats are particularly stable against certain types of disturbances that would normally cause the cats to lose their quantum properties and become ordinary felines. That stability could, for instance, be exploited in order to realize quantum computers, which use quantum superposition states to do their calculations. Furthermore, ultra-precise measurements could be made less sensitive to unwanted external influences.

###

Literature reference

Lo HY, Kienzler D, de Clercq L, Marinelli M, Negnevitsky V, Keitch, BC, Home JP: Spin-motion entanglement and state diagnosis with squeezed oscillator wavepackets. Nature, 21 May 2015, doi: 10.1038/nature14458 [http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature14458]

Media Contact

Dr. Jonathan Home
jhome@phys.ethz.ch
41-446-333-166

 @ETH_en

http://www.ethz.ch/index_EN

Dr. Jonathan Home | EurekAlert!

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Scientists create fully electronic 2-dimensional spin transistors
18.09.2019 | University of Groningen

nachricht The magic wavelength of cadmium
16.09.2019 | University of Tokyo

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: Happy hour for time-resolved crystallography

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Hamburg and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) outstation in the city have developed a new method to watch biomolecules at work. This method dramatically simplifies starting enzymatic reactions by mixing a cocktail of small amounts of liquids with protein crystals. Determination of the protein structures at different times after mixing can be assembled into a time-lapse sequence that shows the molecular foundations of biology.

The functions of biomolecules are determined by their motions and structural changes. Yet it is a formidable challenge to understand these dynamic motions.

Im Focus: Modular OLED light strips

At the International Symposium on Automotive Lighting 2019 (ISAL) in Darmstadt from September 23 to 25, 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, a provider of research and development services in the field of organic electronics, will present OLED light strips of any length with additional functionalities for the first time at booth no. 37.

Almost everyone is familiar with light strips for interior design. LED strips are available by the metre in DIY stores around the corner and are just as often...

Im Focus: Tomorrow´s coolants of choice

Scientists assess the potential of magnetic-cooling materials

Later during this century, around 2060, a paradigm shift in global energy consumption is expected: we will spend more energy for cooling than for heating....

Im Focus: The working of a molecular string phone

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Potsdam (both in Germany) and the University of Toronto (Canada) have pieced together a detailed time-lapse movie revealing all the major steps during the catalytic cycle of an enzyme. Surprisingly, the communication between the protein units is accomplished via a water-network akin to a string telephone. This communication is aligned with a ‘breathing’ motion, that is the expansion and contraction of the protein.

This time-lapse sequence of structures reveals dynamic motions as a fundamental element in the molecular foundations of biology.

Im Focus: Milestones on the Way to the Nuclear Clock

Two research teams have succeeded simultaneously in measuring the long-sought Thorium nuclear transition, which enables extremely precise nuclear clocks. TU Wien (Vienna) is part of both teams.

If you want to build the most accurate clock in the world, you need something that "ticks" very fast and extremely precise. In an atomic clock, electrons are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Society 5.0: putting humans at the heart of digitalisation

10.09.2019 | Event News

Interspeech 2019 conference: Alexa and Siri in Graz

04.09.2019 | Event News

AI for Laser Technology Conference: optimizing the use of lasers with artificial intelligence

29.08.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientists create fully electronic 2-dimensional spin transistors

18.09.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Study gives clues to the origin of Huntington's disease, and a new way to find drugs

18.09.2019 | Life Sciences

Scientists construct energy production unit for a synthetic cell

18.09.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>