Physicists Cool Microscopic Drum Below Quantum Limit

Posted: Jan 12 2017, 3:54am CST | by , Updated: Jan 12 2017, 4:30am CST, in Latest Science News


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Physicists Squeeze Light to Cool Tiny Drum to Lowest Temperature Ever
NIST researchers applied a special form of microwave light to cool a microscopic aluminum drum to an energy level below the generally accepted limit, to just one fifth of a single quantum of energy. Having a diameter of 20 micrometers and a thickness of 100 nanometers, the drum beat 10 million times per second while its range of motion fell to nearly zero. Credit: Teufel/NIST
  • Physicists manage to Cool Microscopic Drum beyond the Quantum Threshold

Physicists at NIST have managed to squeeze light in order to cool a microscopic drum beyond the quantum threshold.

Physicists at NIST have taken the temperature of a microscopic drum below the quantum limit. This is lower than was thought possible in erstwhile times.

The exciting experiment is described today in the journal Nature.

A microscopic drum that consisted of a vibrating aluminum sheet was cooled to below one-fifth of a single quantum. Quanta are packets of energy. This novel method could be used to cool substances to absolute zero. This is the temperature at which all energy and motion come to a standstill.

The cooler the drum, the better it is for experimental purposes. This could have a range of applications. They include: sensors that are highly sensitive and the storage of data for longer periods of time.

In the context of a quantum computer, you could have performance without a single hitch and the result would be that you would get answers that were very accurate.

This experiment was a shock to many researchers in the field. Its elegance was such that it will continue to have an indelible impact on the field for a long time.

The drum was 20 micrometers in diameter and 100 nanometers in thickness. It was placed in a superconducting circuit. The drum’s movements led to microwaves that bounced inside a space which was an electromagnetic cavity.

Microwaves are a sort of invisible light. However, they have longer wavelengths and lower frequency than visible light. The microwaves changed their frequency to match the frequency of the cavity’s vibrations.

This worked in the same manner as a musical pitch. The physicists cooled the drum to its lowest energy ground state. This was one third of one quantum.

A methodology known as sideband cooling was used. A microwave tone is directed at the circuit. This allows the drum to beat. Photons are thus released.

These naturally ally with the higher resonance frequency of the cavity. As the photons leak out, they take energy with them. The procedure is similar to laser cooling.

The whole scenario ultimately depends upon squeezed light. The fact that the physicists managed to reach below the quantum limit speaks volumes about the limitless frontiers that science opens up before mankind.

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