(ORDO NEWS) — For the first time, American physicists managed to achieve the quantum state of the Bose – Einstein condensate for a molecular gas. Previously, it was possible to do this only for atoms. The authors note that their discovery is an important step in the development of quantum physics, chemistry and technology. The results are published in the journal Nature.
So far, quantum technologies exist only in the microcosm, at the level of atoms. The technological breakthrough in this industry depends on the scale of quantum systems that scientists can manage. Researchers at the University of Chicago reported the first successful experiment to create a quantum state in molecular systems.
Bose – Einstein condensate is an extreme state of matter that occurs only at temperatures close to absolute zero. It is characterized by the fact that the particles in such a system are no longer distinguishable, and merging with each other, behave like one giant “superparticle”, the state of which can be described by a wave function.
For several decades, physicists have been able to obtain this state at the atomic level – when a group of atoms, cooled to almost absolute zero, goes into a single quantum state and begins to behave as if the whole group were one atom. This is much more difficult with molecules.
“Atoms are simple spherical objects, while molecules can vibrate, rotate, carry a magnetic charge. Since molecules can do many different things, this makes them more useful, but at the same time they are much more difficult to control,” University release, the words of research leader Professor Cheng Chin.
To bring several molecules simultaneously into a single quantum state has been one of the most important goals of quantum physics since the 1990s, but only now it has become possible due to the emergence of a number of new technical possibilities.
“People have been trying to do this for decades, so we are very excited,” the scientist continues. “I hope to open up new areas in quantum chemistry, and there are many discoveries ahead of us.”
To bring gas molecules into a quantum state, the authors first cooled them to 10 nanokelvin – almost to absolute zero – and then squeezed them under ultrahigh pressure so that they lined up in a line of identical molecules with the same orientation and the same vibration frequency, that is, brought them into a quantum state.
“Usually, molecules want to move in all directions, and if you allow that, they will be much less stable. We have constrained the molecules so that they are on a two-dimensional surface and can only move in two directions,” notes Chen.
Scientists have called the resulting state a clean slate for quantum engineering.
“If you want to build quantum systems for storing information, you need a blank slate to write on before you can format and store that information. This is the perfect starting point,” explains Professor Chen.
“In the traditional understanding of chemistry, you think of several atoms and molecules that collide and form new molecules,” the researcher continues. “But in quantum mode, all molecules act together, in collective behavior. react together to become molecules of a new type.”
So far, scientists have managed to link together several thousand molecules, but in the future they plan to increase the potential of molecular quantum systems.
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