Researchers use quantum mechanics to see objects without looking at them
Aalto University quantum researchers use quantum coherence to detect objects without looking at them. Credit: Mikko Raskinen/Aalto University

Light is being absorbed by specialized cells in our eye. Is it possible to see without any absorption of light? The answer is affirmative.

Imagine that you have a camera that has a roll of film on it. Even a single photon would destroy the roll. In the quantum world, there is a way to know whether or not film is in the cartridge. The idea of an interaction-free experiment using optics was implemented by one of the winners of the 2022.

A new and more effective way to conduct interaction-free experiments has been found by Shruti Dogra, John J. McCord, and Gheorghe Sorin Paraoaru. Transmon devices, which are relatively large but still show quantum behavior, were used to detect microwaves. Their work was published in a journal.

An experiment with quantumness.

Dogra and Paraoanu were interested in the work done by the research group but their lab is focused on microwaves and superconductors. The concept had to be adapted to the different experimental tools. The standard interaction-free protocol had to be changed in order to add another layer of quantumness. The three-level system was used as a resource.

It's possible that an object can occupy two different states at the same time. It wasn't obvious at first that the new protocol would work. The team was pleasantly surprised by the first runs of the experiment. They went back to the drawing board multiple times to check their results. It was definitely there.

Dogra says that even very low-power microwaves can be detected using the protocol.

There is a new way in which classical devices can't achieve results that are impossible for quantum devices. This experiment demonstrated genuine quantum advantage using a relatively simpler setup, despite the fact that researchers believe that achieving quantum advantage requires quantum computers with many qubits.

There are a lot of potential applications of quantum technology.

The less effective older methodology has already been used in a number of specialized processes. The new method could make these processes more efficient.

Our method can be used in quantum computing to diagnose microwave-photon states. Paraoanu says that this can be seen as a highly efficient way of getting information.

Counterfactual communication and counterfactual quantum computing are examples of exotic forms of information processing that are being explored by the group led by Paraoanu.

Shruti Dogra et al, Coherent interaction-free detection of microwaves with a superconducting circuit, Nature Communications. There is a DOI titled " 10.1038/s41467-02235049-z".

Journal information: Nature Communications