Quantum Sound Waves Offer Powerful Sensors

Quantum Sound Waves Offer Powerful Sensors

Researchers from University of Chicago developed an echo chamber that can be controlled at the quantum level

A team of researchers from the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory built a mechanical system that can be controlled at the quantum level. The system is a tiny ‘echo chamber’ for sound waves that can be controlled by connecting it to quantum circuits. According to the researchers, the findings are expected to facilitate development of new quantum sensors and communication and memory devices. The research was published in the journal Nature on November 21, 2018.

The researchers focused on quantum electrical circuits as they wanted to connect one of these circuits to a device that generates surface acoustic waves. Surface acoustic waves are small sound waves that travel along the surface of a block of solid material. This phenomenon is most significant in everyday devices such as cell phones, garage door openers, and radio receivers. The researchers were able to build the two systems separately and on different kinds of material. The system was later connected together, which allowed the team to optimize each component along with ability to communicate with one another. The researchers stated that both the systems require cold storage of around ten thousandths of a degree above absolute zero.

Andrew Cleland, lead author of the study and the John A. MacLean Sr. Professor for Molecular Engineering Innovation and Enterprise and a senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, stated that the findings facilitate use of sound waves for a wide range of applications in quantum mechanics. Sound waves move 100,000 times slower than light, which helps to study these waves in a more detailed manner than electromagnetic waves. Quantum information stored via sound waves can, therefore, last a lot longer than in light. The team stated that the technique can also be useful in developing quantum translator for quantum communication across any distance. The electronic atoms developed by the team can be operated and communicated at very low temperatures. Moreover, quantum acoustics can enable these circuits to convert quantum information to optical signals for long range communication at room temperature.