Pickin’ up good quantum vibrations

A new technique that can generate quantum behaviour in a millimetre-sized drum has been developed by researchers from The University of Queensland and the Imperial College London. 

Dr Martin Ringbauer of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems said the new method for beating the tiny drum will help the march towards new quantum technologies.

“Generating quantum states of motion will be crucial for developing technology such as ultra-sensitive vibration sensors and transducers, like those that tell your phone which direction you’re holding it,” Dr Ringbauer said.

“Hitting a drum with a drumstick causes it to rapidly move up and down and produce the sound we hear, however in the quantum world a drum can be in a superposition state where it  vibrates and stands still at the same time.

“In recent years, the emerging field of quantum optomechanics has made great progress towards the goal of a simultaneously vibrating and nonvibrating miniature-sized quantum drum.”

A light particle is created to take two possible paths at the same time, with one path hitting the drum, and the other not – meaning the drum does and does not start to move.

UQ researcher Dr Till Weinhold said the research team took an unconventional approach to this principle.

“We adapted a trick from quantum computing to help us select cases where our drumstick – a single particle of light – interacted with the tiny drum,” Dr Weinhold said.

“The technique had not been trialled in combination with a mechanical resonator before now. 

“Our success will enable other researchers to reach a true quantum super-position and ultimately enhance the sensitivity of sensors for vibrations and movements of objects.” 

These future experiments could reveal new intricacies of quantum mechanics and might even help light the path to a theory of quantum gravity.

The paper is published in the New Journal of Physics (DOI: 10.1088/1367-2630/aabb8d).

Media: Dr. Till Weinhold, t.weinhold@uq.edu.au, 0423 135 456; Tara Roberson, Communications, comms@equs.org, 0404 516 635

Major funding support

Australian Research Council

The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS) acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present.