Listening to quantum radio

March 08, 2019

Researchers at Delft University of Technology have created a quantum circuit that enables them to listen to the weakest radio signal allowed by quantum mechanics. This new quantum circuit opens the door to possible future applications in areas such as radio astronomy and medicine (MRI). It also enables researchers to do experiments that can shed light on the interplay between quantum mechanics and gravity.

We have all been annoyed by weak radio signals at some point in our lives: our favourite song in the car turning to noise, being too far away from our wifi router to check our email. Our usual solution is to make the signal bigger, for instance by picking a different radio station or by moving to the other side of the living room. What if, however, we could just listen more carefully?

Weak radio signals are not just a challenge for people trying to find their favourite radio station, but also for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners at hospitals, as well as for the telescopes scientists use to peer into space.

In a quantum 'leap' in radio frequency detection, researchers in the group of Prof. Gary Steele in Delft demonstrated the detection of photons or quanta of energy, the weakest signals allowed by the theory of quantum mechanics.

Quantum chunks

One of the strange predictions of quantum mechanics is that energy comes in tiny little chunks called 'quanta'. What does this mean? "Say I am pushing a kid on a swing", lead researcher Mario Gely said. "In the classical theory of physics, if I want the kid to go a little bit faster I can give them a small push, giving them more speed and more energy. Quantum mechanics says something different: I can only increase the kid's energy one 'quantum step' at a time. Pushing by half of that amount is not possible."

For a kid on a swing these 'quantum steps' are so tiny that they are too small to notice. Until recently, the same was true for radio waves. However, the research team in Delft developed a circuit that can actually detect these chunks of energy in radio frequency signals, opening up the potential for sensing radio waves at the quantum level.

From quantum radio to quantum gravity?

Beyond applications in quantum sensing, the group in Delft is interested in taking quantum mechanics to the next level: mass. While the theory of quantum electromagnetism was developed nearly 100 years ago, physicists are still puzzled today on how to fit gravity into quantum mechanics.

"Using our quantum radio, we want to try to listen to and control the quantum vibrations of heavy objects, and explore experimentally what happens when you mix quantum mechanics and gravity", Gely said. "Such experiments are hard, but if successful we would be able to test if we can make a quantum superposition of space-time itself, a new concept that would test our understanding of both quantum mechanics and general relativity."
-end-


Delft University of Technology

Related Quantum Mechanics Articles from Brightsurf:

Theoreticians show which quantum systems are suitable for quantum simulations
A joint research group led by Prof. Jens Eisert of Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin and Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) has shown a way to simulate the quantum physical properties of complex solid state systems.

A new interpretation of quantum mechanics suggests reality does not depend on the measurer
For 100 years scientists have disagreed on how to interpret quantum mechanics.

New evidence for quantum fluctuations near a quantum critical point in a superconductor
A study has found evidence for quantum fluctuations near a quantum critical point in a superconductor.

Simulating quantum 'time travel' disproves butterfly effect in quantum realm
Using a quantum computer to simulate time travel, researchers have demonstrated that, in the quantum realm, there is no 'butterfly effect.' In the research, information--qubits, or quantum bits--'time travel' into the simulated past.

Orbital engineering of quantum confinement in high-Al-content AlGaN quantum well
Recently, professor Kang's group focus on the limitation of quantum confine band offset model, the hole states delocalization in high-Al-content AlGaN quantum well are understood in terms of orbital intercoupling.

A Metal-like Quantum Gas: A pathbreaking platform for quantum simulation
Coherent and ultrafast laser excitation creates an exotic matter phase with spatially overlapping electronic wave-functions under nanometric control in an artificial micro-crystal of ultracold atoms.

Fluid mechanics mystery solved
An environmental engineering professor has solved a decades-old mystery regarding the behavior of fluids, a field of study with widespread medical, industrial and environmental applications.

Quantum leap: Photon discovery is a major step toward at-scale quantum technologies
A team of physicists at the University of Bristol has developed the first integrated photon source with the potential to deliver large-scale quantum photonics.

USTC realizes the first quantum-entangling-measurements-enhanced quantum orienteering
Researchers enhanced the performance of quantum orienteering with entangling measurements via photonic quantum walks.

A convex-optimization-based quantum process tomography method for reconstructing quantum channels
Researchers from SJTU have developed a convex-optimization-based quantum process tomography method for reconstructing quantum channels, and have shown the validity to seawater channels and general channels, enabling a more precise and robust estimation of the elements of the process matrix with less demands on preliminary resources.

Read More: Quantum Mechanics News and Quantum Mechanics Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.