Quantum Machines Have Arrived


Summer 2010 Issue

Quantum behavior on human made objects

Quantum Machines Have Arrived

A team of scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne led by Tobias Kippenberg is close to creating gizmos that move according to the rules of quantum mechanics. In this state, an object can absorb energy only in discrete “quanta” and can be in two places at once. In order to enter the realm of quantum motion, Kippenberg’s gizmos make the slightest movement of vibration, are drained of every bit of energy, and quiver with an unquenchable “zero-point motion.” While molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles all obey the dictates of quantum theory, physicists have never been able to observe such behavior in a human-made object. Now, four different groups have been able to come within a dozen quanta of a machine that vibrates into a ground state, a crucial first step toward machines that oscillate around two different positions at once. Scientists believe quantum machines could lead to devices that blur the lines between electronics, optics, and mechanics, they also hope to explore further into the mystery of why human-scale objects don’t behave quantum mechanically.

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This article appeared in the Summer 2010 ISSUE,

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