Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Coldest Lab In Chicago To Simulate Hot Physics Of Early Universe, Explore Futuristic World Of Quantum Computing

Date:
February 24, 2007
Source:
University of Chicago
Summary:
Cheng Chin will make a vacuum chamber in his laboratory the coldest place in Chicago in order to simulate the impossibly hot conditions that followed the big bang during the earliest moments of the universe. "It turns out that matter at ultralow and ultrahigh temperatures might have something in common," said Chin, an Assistant Professor in Physics at the University of Chicago. Chin's strategy for probing the formative moments of the early universe may also help boost the capability of quantum computers.

Cheng Chin, Assistant Professor in Physics at the University of Chicago, with some of the optics in his laboratory, where he studies the behavior of atoms and molecules under ultracold conditions. (Credit: Photo by Lloyd DeGrane)
Credit: Photo by Lloyd DeGrane

Cheng Chin will make a vacuum chamber in his laboratory the coldest place in Chicago in order to simulate the impossibly hot conditions that followed the big bang during the earliest moments of the universe.

“It turns out that matter at ultralow and ultrahigh temperatures might have something in common,” said Chin, an Assistant Professor in Physics at the University of Chicago. Chin’s strategy for probing the formative moments of the early universe may also help boost the capability of quantum computers. The work is supported by a 2006 Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering. As one of 20 new Fellows of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Chin will receive an unrestricted research grant of $625,000 over five years.

Astrophysicists believe that moments after the big bang, subatomic particles were spread evenly throughout a uniform environment that pervaded the universe. “After billions of years, our universe is now far from uniform, with all kinds of complex structure: galaxies, planet systems, you and me,” Chin said. “What is the origin of these complexities and when and how did they develop?”

One scenario, called quantum fluctuation, describes a random process. Chin likened it to throwing beans on the floor. Any pattern that forms will arise entirely by chance. The alternative theory depends on what scientists call the Kibble-Zurek mechanism in which matter undergoes a quantum phase transition.

In the physics of everyday life, a phase transition occurs when snow flakes form out of cooling water vapor on a winter day. In the quantum world of subatomic particles, matter undergoes more exotic phase transitions under ultracold or ultrahot conditions. According to the laws of quantum physics, these transitions display a universal behavior regardless of whether they occur at absolute zero or under big-bang conditions of many billions of degrees.

Physicists are unable to recreate the big bang on Earth, but they can watch how uniformly distributed atoms develop patterns in an ultracold vacuum chamber. In his laboratory at the Gordon Center for Integrative Science, Chin will cool the atoms in a two-foot cylindrical vacuum chamber to billionths of a degree above absolute zero – minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit.

The cooled atoms will become a superfluid, an exotic state of matter that differs dramatically from the solids, liquids and gases that dominate everyday life. As the most uniform medium that technology can produce, the ultracold atoms in this superfluid will simulate how evenly distributed matter forms patterns under extreme conditions.

If the Kibble-Zurek process was operating after the big bang, voids and clumps of matter formed as the universe expanded and cooled over millions and billions of years, leading to the formation of galaxies interspersed by vast, nearly empty expanses of intergalactic space. “Cosmological structures formed in this way will have predictable properties and are not fully random,” Chin said.

Chin controls the atoms in his experimental chamber by trapping them in the crossing pattern of infrared laser beams. These optical lattices hold ultracold atoms fast, like eggs in an egg crate, Chin said. In the second phase of his research program, Chin will attempt to develop these optical lattices to store and transmit information between large numbers of atoms.

In the world of computation, smaller is better. Quantum computers, if fully developed, would be far more powerful than conventional computers because they would use atoms instead of transistors as their basic components.

“There are many more tricks we can play on these atoms than on eggs or on any tangible object,” Chin said. These tricks, or “quantum operations,” as scientists call them, could make it possible to tackle tasks with quantum computers that would otherwise prove impossible.

In particular, optical lattices can provide a way of maintaining a state of quantum coherence. In this state, all atoms are moving, spinning and tipping in perfect synchronicity. “Think about setting a bunch of eggs to spin in sync. It is not an easy task!” Chin said.

“Quantum computation demands a very high degree of quantum coherence. Decoherence is essentially the No. 1 mechanism that limits the lifetime and the performance of a quantum computer. When quantum coherence is lost, you can only press the reset button and restart the computer,” he said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Chicago. "Coldest Lab In Chicago To Simulate Hot Physics Of Early Universe, Explore Futuristic World Of Quantum Computing." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 February 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070223144255.htm>.
University of Chicago. (2007, February 24). Coldest Lab In Chicago To Simulate Hot Physics Of Early Universe, Explore Futuristic World Of Quantum Computing. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070223144255.htm
University of Chicago. "Coldest Lab In Chicago To Simulate Hot Physics Of Early Universe, Explore Futuristic World Of Quantum Computing." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070223144255.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

What This MIT Sensor Could Mean For The Future Of Robotics

What This MIT Sensor Could Mean For The Future Of Robotics

Newsy (Sep. 20, 2014) — MIT researchers developed a light-based sensor that gives robots 100 times the sensitivity of a human finger, allowing for "unprecedented dexterity." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The MIT BioSuit could be an alternative to big, bulky traditional spacesuits, but the concept needs some work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) — Jars, bottles, caps and even a pizza box, recovered from the trash, were the elements used by four musical groups at the "RSFEST2014 Sonorities Recycling Festival", in Colombian city of Cali. Duration: 00:49 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Virtual Reality Headsets Unveiled at Tokyo Game Show

Virtual Reality Headsets Unveiled at Tokyo Game Show

AFP (Sep. 18, 2014) — Several companies unveiled virtual reality headsets at the Tokyo Game Show, Asia's largest digital entertainment exhibition. Duration: 00:48 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins