Cooling a 'massive' solid-state nanoparticle into its quantum ground state

January 30, 2020

In a study probing the boundary between the classical and quantum worlds, researchers laser-cooled a tiny glass nanoparticle with the density of a solid object to a quantum state. The particle they cooled and manipulated, while quite small in itself, is millions of times larger and far more complex than the atomic-scale objects most often used to investigate quantum motion. The researchers' new method may allow for otherwise unachievable quantum manipulations of objects involving large masses and offers a promising new platform for studying macro-quantum physics more broadly. At quantum scales, matter behaves strangely; the physics we use to understand the physical properties of larger objects cease to be useful. Much of what we know about the quantum world has been observed in the smallest of the small - single atoms, molecules and ions, for example. The quantum control of larger, complex particles would allow unprecedented opportunities to test fundamental physics and probe the limits and boundaries between the worlds of classic and quantum mechanics. However, achieving such extreme quantum states in "macroscopic" solid-state particles presents a major challenge. Using lasers to optically levitate, ensnare and cool atoms has enabled the isolation and study of the quantum properties of individual atoms and quantum gasses. Using similar techniques, Uroš Deli? and colleagues trapped and suspended a solid-state 150-nanometer glass sphere containing 100 million atoms. Starting from room temperature, Deli? et al. laser-cooled the nanoparticle to its quantum ground state of motion - a temperature of roughly -273 degrees Celsius. According to the authors, their ability to optically levitate and control the particle facilitates a range of macroscopic quantum experiments.
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American Association for the Advancement of Science

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