"The real impact of our experiment is more inthe foundations of physics in the sense thatit helps show quantum mechanicsstill applies to large objects," Cleland toldTechNewsWorld."If you cando quantum mechanical experiments with objects that are big enough, youcouldsee what effect gravity has on a quantum mechanical system."Althoughgravitation is the weakest of four fundamental forces, or interactions, thatmakeup every physical phenomenon, it's has several unique features, one of thembeing that ithas infinite range.
About the Experiment
Cleland's team, which consisted ofhimself, fellow physicist John Martinis and doctoralstudent Aaron O'Connell,basically took a microwave frequency mechanical resonator andwired it to asuperconductingqubit, then cooled the whole thing to near absolute zero andzapped it with a little energy to see what would happen.They then tookthis resonator and put it in a quantum superposition, a state in which itsimultaneously had zero and one quantum of excitation. Energetically, this isthe same asbeing in two places at the same time.A qubit is a bit ofquantum information. Like a bit in computing, it can have two possiblevalues --a 0 or a 1. Unlike a bit, it can be 0, 1 or both together, which is called a"superposition."A superposition is a quantum mechanical property of aparticle that lets it occupy all itspossible quantum states simultaneously. Theparticle can be thought of as omnipresent inits superposition, if youlike.A superconducting qubit results when you use nanofabricatedsuperconducting electrodescoupled throughJosephson junctions.A Josephson junction consists of athin layer of non-superconducting material between twolayers of superconductingmaterial. Think of it as a ham sandwich without mayo, butter orcondiments.Superconducting qubits go right through the non-superconductingmaterial.Cleland's team cooled its gadget to its lowest-energy state, inthis case zero. This is calledthe "ground state."
"We got a dilution refrigerator; it's a piece of commercialapparatus that anybody can buyfor a couple of hundred thousand dollars,"Cleland said. "It'll cool a few kilos of copper toabout two hundredths of adegree above zero."His team then cooled the resonator to its quantumground state, then applied onequantum unit, or phonon, of energy.Aphonon is a quantum mechanical description of a vibration in which a latticeuniformlyoscillates at one frequency, known as the "normalmode."
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