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Quantum hot potato: NIST researchers entice 2 atoms to swap smallest energy units
Date:2/23/2011

ith a laser to slow their motion. Then one ion is cooled further to a motionless state with two opposing ultraviolet laser beams. Next the coupling interaction is turned on by tuning the voltages of the trap electrodes. In separate experiments reported in Nature, NIST researchers measured the ions swapping energy at levels of several quanta every 155 microseconds and at the single quantum level somewhat less frequently, every 218 microseconds. Theoretically, the ions could swap energy indefinitely until the process is disrupted by heating. NIST scientists observed two round-trip exchanges at the single quantum level.

To detect and measure the ions' activity, NIST scientists apply an oscillating pulse to the trap at different frequencies while illuminating both ions with an ultraviolet laser and analyzing the scattered light. Each ion has its own characteristic vibration frequency; when excited, the motion reduces the amount of laser light absorbed. Dimming of the scattered light tells scientists an ion is vibrating at a particular pulse frequency.

To turn on the coupling interaction, scientists use electrode voltages to tune the frequencies of the two ions, nudging them closer together. The coupling is strongest when the frequencies are closest. The motions become linked due to the electrostatic interactions of the positively charged ions, which tend to repel each other. Coupling associates each ion with both characteristic frequencies.

The new experiments are similar to the same NIST research group's 2009 demonstration of entanglementa quantum phenomenon linking properties of separated particlesin a mechanical system of two separated pairs of vibrating ions (see http://www.nist.gov/pml/div688/jost_060309.cfm). However, the new experiments coupled the oscillators' motions more directly than before and, therefore, may simplify information processing. In
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Contact: Laura Ost
laura.ost@nist.gov
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Source:Eurekalert  

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