Determining the passage of time in a world of ticking clocks and swinging pendulums is a simple case of calculating the seconds between ‘then’ and ‘now’.
However, in the quantum range of noisy electrons, the word “permission” cannot always be expected. Even worse, the word “now” often turns into a haze of uncertainty. A stopwatch simply won’t cut it for some scenarios.
A potential solution could be found in the form of quantum fog itself, according to researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden.
Their experiments with the wave-like nature of something called the Rydberg state revealed a new method for measuring time that does not require an exact starting point.
Rydberg atoms Are the inflated balloons of the particle kingdom. These atoms, inflated by laser rather than air, contain electrons in extremely high energy states, orbiting far from the nucleus.
Of course, not every laser pump needs to inflate an atom until it reaches cartoonish proportions. In fact, lasers are routinely used to tickle electrons at higher power states for a variety of uses.
In some applications, a second laser can be used to monitor changes in the electron’s position, including the passage of time. these ‘pump probeTechniques can be used to measure the speed of some ultra-fast electronic devices, for example.
The induction of atoms into Rydberg states is a Hand trick for engineersNot least when it comes to design new ingredients for Quantum computers. Needless to say, physicists have gathered a great deal of information about the way electrons move when pushed into the Rydberg state.
Being quantum animals, their movements are less like beads sliding down the small counter, but more like an evening at the roulette table, where every roll and jump of the ball is compressed into a single game of chance.
The mathematical rulebook behind this wild game of Rydberg Electron Roulette is referred to as the Rydberg Wave Beam.
Just like actual waves in a pond, having more than one Rydberg wave packet rippling in space creates interference, producing unique patterns of ripples. Throw enough Rydberg wave packets into the same atomic pool, and these unique patterns will account for the characteristic time it takes for the wave packets to match each other.
It was the very ‘fingerprints’ that the physicists behind this latest set of experiments set out to test, showing that it was consistent and reliable enough to serve as a form of quantum timestamp.
Their research involved measuring the results of laser-excited helium atoms and matching their results to theoretical predictions to show how their synchronous results over a period of time could.
“If you use a counter, you have to specify zero. You start counting at some point,” explained physicist Marta Berholtz of Uppsala University in Sweden, who led the team. new world.
“The benefit is that you don’t have to start the clock – you just have to look at the interference structure and say ‘OK, 4 nanoseconds have passed. “
A guidebook for advanced Rydberg wave beams can be used in conjunction with other forms of pump-probe spectroscopy that measure events on a small scale, when now and then they are less obvious, or simply inconvenient to measure.
Most importantly, none of the fingerprints require time and update to serve as a starting and stopping point for time. It would be like benchmarking an unknown runner’s race against a number of competitors running at set speeds.
By looking for the signature of overlapping Rydberg states amid a sample of the pump probe’s atoms, technicians can observe the timestamp of events as small as 1.7 trillionths of a second.
Future quantum clock experiments could replace helium with other atoms, or even use a laser pulse of different energies, to extend the evidence of timestamps to suit a wider range of conditions.
This research was published in Physical Review Research.