Physicists made a Breakthrough by Harnessing Thousands of Molecules Into a Single Quantum State

A milestone achieved for quantum physics, hundreds of molecules have been induced to share the identical quantum state, dancing collectively in unison like one enormous tremendous molecule.

Updated version of the previous article.

This is a purpose long-sought by physicists, who hope to harness complicated quantum techniques for technological functions – however getting a bunch of unruly molecules to work collectively is on a issue par with herding cats.


“People have been trying to do this for decades, so we’re very excited,” said physicist Cheng Chin from the University of Chicago.

“I hope this can open new fields in many-body quantum chemistry. There’s evidence that there are a lot of discoveries waiting out there.”

The idea of many particles appearing collectively as one massive particle – sharing their quantum states – will not be a new one. We’ve achieved it and experimented with it for many years with clouds of single atoms in a state of matter known as a Bose-Einstein condensate.

These are shaped from atoms cooled to only a fraction above absolute zero (however not reaching absolute zero, at which level atoms cease shifting). This causes them to sink to their lowest-energy state, shifting extraordinarily slowly in order that their power variations disappear, main them to overlap in quantum superposition.

The result’s a high-density cloud of atoms that acts like one ‘tremendous atom’ or matter wave.

Molecules, nonetheless, are made up of a number of atoms certain collectively, and due to this fact are a lot tougher to tame on this method.

“Atoms are simple spherical objects, whereas molecules can vibrate, rotate, carry small magnets,” Chin explained. “Because molecules can do so many different things, it makes them more useful, and at the same time much harder to control.”

To create their molecular Bose-Einstein condensate, the group, led by physicist Zhendong Zhang from the University of Chicago, began with an atomic Bose-Einstein condensate, utilizing a gasoline of 60,000 cesium atoms.

Next, they cooled the condensate even additional and ramped the magnetic area in order that round 15 p.c of the cesium atoms collided and bound together in pairs to type dicesium molecules. The unbound atoms had been ejected from the lure, and a magnetic area gradient was utilized to levitate and constrain the remaining molecules in a two-dimensional configuration.

“Typically, molecules want to move in all directions, and if you allow that, they are much less stable,” Chin said. “We confined the molecules so that they are on a 2D surface and can only move in two directions.”

The ensuing gasoline was made up of molecules that the scientists discovered had been all occupying the identical quantum state, with the identical spins, orientation, and vibration.

We’re but to discover what a molecular Bose-Einstein condensate can do – however that is a important step in that route, offering an empty canvas for future experiments.

Not only for the molecular condensate itself, both, however for the transition between atomic and molecular Bose-Einstein condensates. Exploring how this works will assist scientists streamline the method, so we are able to develop condensates with different molecules that could be simpler to keep up or extra environment friendly for various technological functions.

“In the traditional way to think about chemistry, you think about a few atoms and molecules colliding and forming a new molecule,” Chin said.

“But in the quantum regime, all molecules act together, in collective behavior. This opens a whole new way to explore how molecules can all react together to become a new kind of molecule.”

The group’s analysis has been revealed in Nature.

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