Breaking the symmetry in the quantum realm

May 31, 2019

For the first time, researchers have observed a break in a single quantum system. The observation--and how they made the observation--has potential implications for physics beyond the standard understanding of how quantum particles interact to produce matter and allow the world to function as we know it.

The researchers published their results on May 31st, in the journal Science.

Called Parity-Time (PT) Symmetry, the mathematical term describes the properties of a quantum system--the evolution of time for a quantum particle, as well as if the particle is even or odd. Whether the particle moves forward or backward in time, the state of oddness or evenness remains the same in the balanced system. When the parity changes, the balance of system -- the symmetry of the system -- breaks.

In order to better understand quantum interactions and develop next-generation devices, researchers must be able to control the symmetry of systems. If they can break the symmetry, they could manipulate the spin state of the quantum particles as they interact, resulting in controlled and predicted outcomes.

"Our work is about that quantum control," said Yang Wu, an author on the paper and a PhD student in the Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at the Microscale and Department of Modern Physics at the University of Science and Technology of China. Wu is also a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Key Laboratory of Microscale Magnetic Resonance.

Wu, his PhD supervisor Rong and colleagues used a nitrogen-vacancy center in a diamond as their platform. The nitrogen atom with an extra electron, surrounded by carbon atoms, creates the perfect capsule to further investigate the PT symmetry of the electron. The electron is a single-spin system, meaning the researchers can manipulate the entire system just by changing the evolution of the electron spin state.

Through what Wu and Rong call a dilation method, the researchers applied a magnetic field to the axis of the nitrogen-vacancy center, pulling the electron into a state of excitability. They then applied oscillating microwave pulses, changing the parity and time direction of the system and causing it to break and decay with time.

"Due to the universality of our dilation method and the highly controllability of our platform, this work paves the way to study experimentally some new physical phenomena related to PT symmetry," Wu said.

Corresponding authors Jiangfeng Du and Xing Rong, professors with the Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at the Microscale and Department of Modern Physics at the University of Science and Technology of China, were in agreement.

"The information extracted from such dynamics extends and deepens the understanding of quantum physics," said Du, who is also an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. "The work opens the door to the study of exotic physics with non-classical quantum systems."

The other authors include Wenquan Liu, Jianpei Geng, Xingrui Song, Xiangyu Ye, Chang-Kui Duan and Xing Rong. All of the authors are affiliated with the Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at the Microscale and Department of Modern Physics at the University of Science and Technology of China. Liu, Ye, Duan, Rong and Du are also affiliated with both the University's CAS Key Laboratory of Microscale Magnetic Resonance, and the University's Synergetic Innovation Center of Quantum Information and Quantum Physics.
-end-
Professor Xing Rong is available for interviews in English and Chinese.

Media contact:
Xing Rong
Department of Modern Physics
University of Science and Technology of China (USTC)
xrong@ustc.edu.cn

University of Science and Technology of China

Related Quantum Physics Articles from Brightsurf:

Know when to unfold 'em: Applying particle physics methods to quantum computing
Borrowing a page from high-energy physics and astronomy textbooks, a team of physicists and computer scientists at Berkeley Lab has successfully adapted and applied a common error-reduction technique to the field of quantum computing.

Quantum physics: Physicists successfully carry out controlled transport of stored light
A team of physicists at Mainz University has successfully transported light stored in a quantum memory over a distance of 1.2 millimeters.

New system detects faint communications signals using the principles of quantum physics
Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have devised and demonstrated a system that could dramatically increase the performance of communications networks while enabling record-low error rates in detecting even the faintest of signals.

Quirky response to magnetism presents quantum physics mystery
In a new study just published and highlighted as an Editor's Suggestion in Physical Review Letters, scientists describe the quirky behavior of one such magnetic topological insulator.

Evidence of power: Phasing quantum annealers into experiments from nonequilibrium physics
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) use commercially available quantum annealers, a type of quantum computer, to experimentally probe the validity of an important mechanism from nonequilibrium physics in open quantum systems.

Adapting ideas from quantum physics to calculate alternative interventions for infection and cancer
Published in Nature Physics, findings from a new study co-led by Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University teams show for the first time how ideas from quantum physics can help develop novel drug interventions for bacterial infections and cancer.

Quantum physics: Realization of an anomalous Floquet topological system
An international team led by physicists from the Ludwig-Maximilians Universitaet (LMU) in Munich realized a novel genuine time-dependent topological system with ultracold atoms in periodically-driven optical honeycomb lattices.

Quantum physics provides a way to hide ignorance
Students can hide their ignorance and answer questions correctly in an exam without their lack of knowledge being detected by teachers -- but only in the quantum world.

Quantum physics: Physicists develop a new theory for Bose-Einstein condensates
Bose-Einstein condensates are often described as the fifth state of matter: At extremely low temperatures, gas atoms behave like a single particle.

Attosecond physics: Quantum brakes in molecules
Physicists have measured the flight times of electrons emitted from a specific atom in a molecule upon excitation with laser light.

Read More: Quantum Physics News and Quantum Physics 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.