Quantum entanglement, a decidedly weird effect influencing the realm of the incredibly small, may apply to the “real world” but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to see. After all, we’re talking about individual pairs of particles here.
Now, two new papers – both published this week in Nature – describe how we’re now able to see the phenomenon play out in unprecedented detail within microscopic structures, meaning you can almost see the entangled objects with your own eyes.
This isn’t the first time this has been achieved, though: In 2011, using a pair of visible diamonds, the vibrational states of both were shown to match in a state of quantum entanglement. Also, back in 2009, scientists used tiny, but macroscopic, superconductors to see the effects of quantum entanglement with the naked eye too.
“Entanglement is achieved routinely in electrical circuits nowadays,” senior author of one of the papers, Prof. Mika Sillanpää of Aalto University, told IFLScience. “What makes a difference to our case is that we have the entire physical body (pretty much visible to the naked eye), all its atoms and electrons, participating in the collective entanglement.”
In any case, both of these pieces of research ( one led by the University of Vienna and the Delft University of Technology, the other by Finland’s Aalto University) represent an exciting step forward for the field.
Using two different methods, the teams managed to get two types of bespoke, unconnected, microscopically-sized oscillators – devices that generate periodically changing electrical current – to demonstrate quantum entanglement. The latter group used microwaves to force two aluminum oscillators into a single quantum state; the former used lasers to do the same to wibbly silicon segments.
For those understandably a bit lost at this point, here is a little primer as to what the phenomenon actually is.
Sometimes, two particles that are separated by a huge distance can act as if they’re a pair. Their behaviors mirror each other instantaneously, and despite having no clear physical connection, they behave as a single particle, or a single system.