UQ physicist builds on Einstein and Galileo's work

June 02, 2017

Sixteenth century scientist Galileo Galilei threw two spheres of different mass from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa to establish a scientific principle.

Now nearly four centuries later, a team of Italian physicists has applied the same principle to quantum objects using a novel scientific method proposed by UQ physicist Dr Magdalena Zych, reported today in Nature Communications.

Dr Zych, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems, said the work could lead to the development of new sensors with applications in the study of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, in searching for mineral deposits, in navigation of Earth and space, and in high-precision measurements of time, frequency and acceleration.

Mathematician and physicist Albert Einstein described the principle last century and it became known as 'Einstein's equivalence principle' for atoms whose mass is in a quantum superposition state.

Dr Magdalena ZychDr Zych said the principle played a vital role in physicists' understanding of gravity and space-time.

"The principle contends that the total inertial and gravitational mass of any objects are equivalent, meaning all bodies fall in the same way when subject to gravity," she said.

"Our research team conducted a quantum version of the Leaning Tower test."

The novel approach was first proposed by Dr Zych and University of Vienna and Austrian Academy of Science researcher Professor ?aslav Brukner.

"Our test relied on a unique quantum feature: superposition," Dr Zych said.

"In relativistic physics, the total mass of a system depends on its internal energy.

"In quantum theory, a system can occupy two or more different energy states 'at once'. This is called quantum superposition, which means a quantum system may occupy different mass-energies concurrently."

A team led by Professor Guglielmo Tino of the University of Florence and Rome's Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (National Institute for Nuclear Physics) designed and realised the experiment.

"The spheres in Galileo's Leaning Tower example were replaced by rubidium atoms," Dr Zych said.

"The tower was replaced by a scheme developed by Professor Tino's team that is based on Bragg atom interferometry.

"The experiment confirmed the validity of the Einstein equivalence principle for quantum superpositions with a relative precision of a few parts per billion."
-end-
The collaboration included researchers from the University of Bologna and the European Space Agency.

The journal article is titled: Quantum test of the equivalence principle for atoms in superpositions of internal energy eigenstates (doi: 10.1038/NCOMMS15529)

University of Queensland

Related Einstein Articles from Brightsurf:

Einstein's description of gravity just got much harder to beat
Astrophysicists put general relativity to a new test with black hole images.

World's fastest Bose-Einstein condensate
New research published in Nature Communications can make elusive state of matter in record time

Beyond Einstein: Mystery surrounding photon momentum solved
According to Einstein, light consists of particles (photons) that transfer only quantised energy to the electron of the atom.

A new path to understanding second sound in Bose-Einstein condensates
There are two sound velocities in a Bose-Einstein condensate. In addition to the normal sound propagation there is second sound, which is a quantum phenomenon.

Beyond Einstein
Theoretical physicists have been questioning if black hole singularities exist through complex mathematical equations over the past several decades with little success until now.

Bose-Einstein condensate generated in space for the first time
A team of scientists from Germany has succeeded in creating a Bose-Einstein condensate for the first time in space on board a research rocket.

Quantum leap for Einstein's scientific principle
How Einstein's equivalence principle extends to the quantum world has been puzzling physicists for decades, but a team including a University of Queensland researcher has found the key to this question.

Einstein's general relativity confirmed near black hole
Observations made with ESO's Very Large Telescope have for the first time clearly revealed the effects of Einstein's general relativity on the motion of a star passing through the extreme gravitational field very close to the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way.

Study of high-energy neutrinos again proves Einstein right
A new study by MIT and others proves Einstein is right again.

Seeing yourself as Einstein may change the way you think
People experiencing Albert Einstein's body as their own through a virtual reality simulation were less likely to unconsciously stereotype older people, while those with low self-esteem scored better on a cognitive test.

Read More: Einstein News and Einstein 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.