Quantum mechanics is the study of how discrete particles in the universe interact, and this, we might say, continues to confuse us. However, scientists now have a decent amount of understanding about quantum mechanics to the extent of successfully creating a strange quantum object known as a domain wall in the laboratory. So what’s cooking? Quantum walls!
Related media: Strange Quantum Object Successfully Created In The Lab For The First Time
The Quantum Testing
In a recent study published in Nature by physicists from the University of Chicago, and for the first time, have been able to generate quantum objects on demand. The scientists created a quantum domain wall under laboratory settings when atoms were kept at a cold temperature, known as a Bose-Einstein condensate, which were grouped together in domains under certain conditions.
The walls are the junctions between these domains. These domain walls could end up shedding new light on different areas of the quantum world, such as quantum electronics, quantum memory, and the behavior of exotic quantum particles, the physicists say.
Previously, there has been studies into domain walls, but never were they able to create them under laboratory settings until now. This has given scientists the ability to analyze them in a whole new perspective. As it turns out, these domain walls act as independent quantum objects, and not the way the physicists expected.
“It’s kind of like a sand dune in the desert — it’s made up of sand, but the dune acts like an object that behaves differently from individual grains of sand,” says Kai-Xuan Yao, a physicist at the University of Chicago.
The Quantum Behavior
This unexpected behavior, however, means that these domain walls join a class of objects known as emergent phenomena — particles converging to comply to different laws of physics than particles that operate on their own. Another unusual behavior that the team found was the way that domain walls react to electric fields. However, this will need further studies and observation to understand. But for now, being able to manipulate and create the quantum world and these walls is a new frontier.
“We have a lot of experience in controlling atoms,” says Cheng Chin, another physicist at the University of Chicago. “We know if you push atoms to the right, they will move right. But here, if you push the domain wall to the right, it moves left.”
From their findings, we could learn more about how atoms — more or less — behaved in the early universe. This is one of the many reasons why this discovery is so important. As the particles that were once clumsy, coalesced into stars, galaxies, and eventually formed planets as well. This is what physicists would love to know exactly how it all happened.
The Quantum Application
This discovery is under the parent study of what’s dubbed dynamical gauge theory — the laboratory testing and computing of quantum phenomena. This could shed light on how emergent phenomena operates in the early universe, not forgotten how matter and energy were evenly distributed. It seems the researchers are looking backwards in as much as looking forward as well. Understanding how these quantum walls can be controlled could open up opportunities for new quantum technologies such as quantum computing.
“There may be applications for this phenomenon in terms of making programmable quantum material or quantum information processors,” says Chin. “It can be used to create a more robust way to store quantum information or enable new functions in materials. But before we can find that out, the first step is to understand how to control them.”
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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Sun, Feb 20, 2022.