Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Quantum simulation of a relativistic particle

Date:
January 8, 2010
Source:
University of Innsbruck
Summary:
Researchers have used a calcium ion to simulate a relativistic quantum particle, demonstrating a phenomenon that has not been directly observable so far: the Zitterbewegung.

This is quantum physicist Rainer Blatt.
Credit: C. Lackner

Researchers of the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) in Innsbruck, Austria, used a calcium ion to simulate a relativistic quantum particle, demonstrating a phenomenon that has not been directly observable so far: the Zitterbewegung. They have published their findings in the current issue of the journal Nature.

In the 1920s quantum mechanics was already established and in 1928 the British physicist Paul Dirac showed that this theory can be merged with special relativity postulated by Albert Einstein. Dirac's work made quantum physics applicable to relativistic particles, which move at a speed that is comparable to the speed of light. The Dirac equation forms the basis for groundbreaking new insights, e.g. it provides a natural description of the electron spin and predicts that each particle also has its antiparticle (anti matter).

In 1930, as a result of the analysis of the Dirac equation, the Austrian Nobel laureate Erwin Schrφdinger first postulated the existence of a so called Zitterbewegung (quivering motion), a kind of fluctuation of the motion of a relativistic particle. "According to the Dirac equation such a particle does not move in a linear fashion in a vacuum but 'jitters' in all three dimensions," Christian Roos from the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ΦAW) explains. "It is not clear whether this Zitterbewegung can be observed in real systems in nature."

Quantum simulation of a particle

Physical phenomena are often described by equations, which may be too complicated to solve. In this case, researchers use computer simulations to answer open questions. However, even for small quantum systems, classical computers have not enough power to manage the processing of the data; thus, scientists, such as Richard Feynman, proposed to simulate these phenomena in other quantum systems experimentally.

The preconditions for doing this -- detailed knowledge about the physics of these systems and an excellent control over the technology and set-up -- have been set by the research group headed by Rainer Blatt by conducting experiments with quantum computers over the last few years; they are now able to carry out quantum simulations experimentally. "The challenges with these experiments are to recreate the equations in the quantum system well, to have a high level of control over the various parameters and to measure the results," Christian Roos says.

The experimental physicists of the IQOQI trapped and cooled a calcium ion and in this well-defined state, a laser coupled the state of the particle and the state of the relativistic particle to be simulated. "Our quantum system was now set to behave like a free relativistic quantum particle that follows the laws of the Dirac equation," Rene Gerritsma explains, a Dutch Postdoc working at the IQOQI and first author of the work published in Nature. Measurements revealed the features of the simulated particle. "Thereby, we were able to demonstrate Zitterbewegung in the experimental simulation and we were also able to determine the probability of the distribution of a particle," Gerritsma says. In this very small quantum system the physicist simulated the Dirac equation only in one spatial dimension. "This simulation was a proof-of-principle experiment," Roos says, "which, in principle, can also be applied to three-dimensional dynamics if the technological set-up is adjusted accordingly."

Simulation of antiparticles

Due to the extremely high level of control over the physical regime of the simulated particle, the scientists were able to modify the mass of the object and to simulate antiparticles. "In the end, our approach was very simple but you have to come up with the idea first," says Christian Roos, whose team of scientists was inspired by a theoretical proposal of a Spanish group of researchers. The work was supported by the Austrian Science Funds (FWF) and the European Commission.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

University of Innsbruck. "Quantum simulation of a relativistic particle." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 January 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100106193221.htm>.
University of Innsbruck. (2010, January 8). Quantum simulation of a relativistic particle. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100106193221.htm
University of Innsbruck. "Quantum simulation of a relativistic particle." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100106193221.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Graphene Paint Offers Rust-Free Future

Graphene Paint Offers Rust-Free Future

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) — British scientists have developed a prototype graphene paint that can make coatings which are resistant to liquids, gases, and chemicals. The team says the paint could have a variety of uses, from stopping ships rusting to keeping food fresher for longer. Jim Drury reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Gulfstream G500, G600 Unveiling

Gulfstream G500, G600 Unveiling

Flying (Oct. 20, 2014) — Watch Gulfstream's public launch of the G500 and G600 at their headquarters in Savannah, Ga., along with a surprise unveiling of the G500, which taxied up under its own power. Video provided by Flying
Powered by NewsLook.com
Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 20, 2014) — Scientists in Tokyo have demonstrated what they say is the world's first 3D projection that floats in mid air. A laser that fires a pulse up to a thousand times a second superheats molecules in the air, creating a spark which can be guided to certain points in the air to shape what the human eye perceives as an image. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

3BL Media (Oct. 20, 2014) — Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala Video provided by 3BL
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

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