By: April Carson
The tiny world is often considered the domain of quantum entanglement, the spooky action at a distance that might be useful for things such as high-powered computing and security. It's simple — OK, not easy, but certainly doable these days — to link the fates of two particles or two tiny items. Scientists have now produced macroscale quantum entanglement, entangling two millimeter-size diamonds.
Entanglement is a phenomenon that occurs as a result of instantaneous interaction at a distance, in which the quantum state of two particles - or in this case one trillion atoms - are connected.
This technology is extremely expensive and difficult to acquire, and it typically needs very chilly temperatures (a few degrees above absolute zero) or specialized confinement methods to prevent the particles from interacting with the surroundings. However, diamonds have a number of characteristics that eliminate the need for such extremes. Even at room temperature, small regions within the diamond are adequately shielded from external disturbances that tangled states can emerge even in large numbers because of the crystal lattice's strong rigid frame (the periodic geometry of carbon atoms).
Even if some of the quantum information carried by entangled atoms is lost, it can be compensated for by sharing that secret information with other atoms or using an auxiliary system.
One important property that makes diamonds suitable for quantum entanglement experiments is called "phonon confinement." Phonons are quasi-particles that manifest themselves as collective excitations of atoms in a solid.
Since the first confirmation of this extraordinary effect, with Bell's inequality demonstration, entangled particles had only been observed in tiny numbers of particles - with the previous record being 16 spin states entangled. Researchers at Oxford University were able to link quadrillions of atoms together in two crystals six inches apart by utilizing a property of solid-state matter known as phonon vibrations, which are coherent (or synchronized) vibrations similar to sound transmission.
The researchers were able to create phononic vibrations by directing a photon from a microwave laser pulse into the diamonds. Imagine throwing a bowling ball into a spring mattress, where the bowling ball strikes the springs and they bounce up and down. When a photon is sent through a beam splitter and into two separate channels, it is in what is called in quantum superposition - it's believed to be in both at the same time (see our article Quantum Weirdness Replaced By Classical Fluid Dynamics for more information). Given that one photon generates a phonon in two separate crystals, they vibrate similarly, thus the phononic state is deemed to be entangled across the two crystals.
In more recent experiments, a group of researchers was able to maintain this amazing condition for many seconds, which might lead to the use of diamonds in quantum computing or photon transmission over long distances. However, the technique has an extremely low success rate right now – requiring approximately a million attempts before one entanglement of phonons is achieved.
This observation is an important step towards the future development of quantum computers, which would be able to perform operations thousands of times faster than traditional machines.
However, the practical applications of these findings are amazing; they reveal "quantum" behavior on a macroscopic scale. Demonstrating that quantum phenomena aren't as inexplicable as we think, and in fact, qualities such as entanglement may be fundamental to the Universe's structure and mechanics.
The two diamonds had to be carefully prepared to start this experiment. To entangle the rubidium atoms within them, they were cooled to extremely low temperatures – one was 0.01 K and the other was 100 times colder at 1 millikelvin (0.001 K).
Further cooling brought their internal temperatures down to the nanokelvin range (billionths of a kelvin). These temperatures were then held constant – there was no heat flow between the diamonds and their environment – for several minutes.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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