Home / News / A groundbreaking image captures the transformation of individual lithium atoms into quantum waves

A groundbreaking image captures the transformation of individual lithium atoms into quantum waves

Particles and waves are indistinguishable in our universe. The challenge to the conventional binary system is pervasive, but it becomes particularly crucial when dealing with quantum phenomena. For more than a century, scientists have extensively investigated the concept of wave-particle duality through numerous experiments. However, a recent breakthrough has allowed researchers to visually record this phenomenon using a camera.

Researchers have successfully captured a groundbreaking image that shows the precise moment when individual atoms start exhibiting the behavior of “wave packets.”. The results of this study are presented in a pre-print paper that is currently awaiting peer review. The equations governing this phenomenon have been established since the early stages of quantum mechanics, thus providing the team with precise knowledge of how the system would evolve. The difficulty lay in the imaging methodology.

In a conversation with the authors of the article, Dr. Tarik Yefsah, Joris Verstraten, Dr. Tim de Jong, and Dr. Bruno Peaudecerf, they likened their imaging techniques to the pixels of a typical digital camera. The lithium atoms are initially cooled to temperatures close to absolute zero by employing lasers. The particles are confined within an optical lattice, but over a sufficient duration, they will transform into a localized wave packet.

The optical lattice is deactivated to allow for the expansion of the atom-wave, which is subsequently reactivated, causing the packet to revert to its particle state.The microscope system can detect and record the fluorescence that the confined atom emits. The method is iterated multiple times to enable the researchers to sample the entire wavefunction density.

Wave packets represent a fundamental expression of the concept of wave-particle duality. However, there have been relatively few experiments focused on directly expanding a single-particle wave packet with high resolution, which is the main focus of our article,” the authors informed. Moreover, due to their well-established behavior, they serve as an excellent test subject for evaluating the effectiveness of the microscopy technique we have developed. By observing the expected behavior, we can verify that the imaging method does not introduce any notable distortion.

Choosing a configuration that is theoretically well understood enabled them to demonstrate the resilience of this technique in capturing quantum phenomena without significantly altering them. Within the realm of quantum mechanics, it is important to acknowledge that the observer is an integral component of the experiment. The subsequent stage involves utilizing it for states that are not well comprehended.

With the imaging technique we have developed and tested in the article, our intention is to directly observe the microscopic characteristics of fermionic systems that exhibit strong interactions. The authors further stated that the understanding of the behavior of those systems is significantly less comprehensive compared to the wave packets discussed in the article. “This could, for example, enhance our comprehension of extraordinary states of matter, such as highly compact neutron stars or the plasma consisting of elementary particles that existed shortly after the Big Bang.”

The paper detailing these observations can be accessed on the pre-print server ArXiv.

About Chambers

Check Also

The Air Force has abandoned its attempt to install a directed-energy weapon on a fighter jet, marking another failure for airborne lasers

The U.S. military’s most recent endeavor to create an airborne laser weapon, designed to safeguard …