Antonio Manaytay – Fourth Estate Contributor
Chicago, IL, United States (4E) – Scientists from the University of Chicago had discovered a new quantum behavior when a magnetic field was applied to the atomic particles called as bosons. This new quantum behavior, according to the researchers, may be of interest to quantum technology.
“This is a very fundamental behavior that we have never been seen before, it was a great surprise to us,” physics professor Cheng Chin said.
In a study, published November 6 in Nature, Chin revealed that the research had detailed a new phenomenon in what was thought before as a well-understood system that will eventually be relevant to future applications of quantum technology.
Chin and colleagues studied how bosons would behave when brought to a state called Bose-Einstein condensate. Bosons, also known as fermions, are fundamental particles in nature. A photon, light particle, is an example of bosons.
Cooled down to almost zero temperature, bosons will pack into the same quantum state. Then the magnetic field applied into the compacted bosons jostled the atoms sending some of them jettisoned out of the condensate.
The researchers, however, were surprised: instead of seeing a uniform field of random ejections, they saw bright jets of atoms shooting out from the disk.
“If you’d asked almost anyone to predict what would happen, they would have said that these collisions would just send atoms flying off in random directions,” postdoctoral fellow Logan Clark, who is the study’s first author, said. Study co-author Anita Gai had also witnessed the fireworks at the level of the atomic world.
“But what we see instead are thousands of bosons bunching together to leave in the same direction,” he said. The phenomenon could be liken to a group of people who agreed to leave their place in groups.
The researchers believed the phenomenon could be present also in other systems, understanding them may lead to better understand what physics underpins other quantum systems.
Clark suggested that this new quantum behavior may have direct applications to future quantum technology.
“For example, if you sent a particular atom in one direction, then a bunch more would follow in that same direction, which would help you amplify small signals in the microscopic world,” he explained.
In particular, the “driven quantum systems” under the quantum engineering research may benefit from the study.
Since the Bose-Einstein condensates are areas considered as well-understood, the researchers said they are excited to discover a quantum behavior had never been documented before.
“If you see something crazy in this simple experiment, it makes you wonder what is else out there,” another co-author Lei Feng said.
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