Light Act As A Magnet In A New Quantum Simulator

  • Scientists propose a laser-based device to better understand several quantum systems. 
  • They discovered that photons can act like magnetic dipoles at absolute zero temperature, following the laws of quantum physics. 

In 1982, a visionary theoretical physicist Richard Feynman showed that the Turning Machine would slow down exponentially when simulating quantum phenomena, whereas his artificial universal quantum simulator would not.

Examining quantum systems is an astoundingly challenging task and it’s almost impossible to model them with traditional supercomputers. That’s why researchers use a special purpose device called quantum simulator to get more insight about quantum physics problems.

Magnets placed at extremely low temperatures — just above absolute zero (-273.15°C) — represent one of the complex quantum systems. These magnetic materials could undergo a quantum phase transition.

Unlike classical phase transitions, quantum phase transitions can be achieved by adjusting a physical parameter (like pressure or magnetic field) close to absolute zero temperatures. However, analyzing such a phenomenon in real materials is an extremely difficult task for experimental physicists.

A Simple Photonic Instrument

Recently, a team of physicists at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (a research institute and university in Switzerland) came up with a new quantum simulator that promises to solve this issue.

Reference: Phys. Rev. Lett. | doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.122.110405 | EPFL 

It’s a simple photonic instrument that simulates the complex characteristics of interacting magnetic materials at ultra-low temperatures. The simulator can be easily developed and run with existing experimental methods.

To develop such equipment, one can use superconducting electronic circuits coupled to laser fields in a specific pattern, which triggers an interaction among photons (fundamental particles of visible light).

The team examined the simulator and discovered that photons act as magnetic dipoles across the quantum phase transition in actual materials. Thus, photons can be used to carry out virtual experiments on quantum magnets rather than setting up an intricate experiment.

What’s Next?

So far, researchers have modeled the behavior of quantum simulator using conventional computer simulations. The outcomes show that the proposed quantum simulator is practical and researchers are now collaborating with experimental physicists who would like to develop it.

It could be applied to a wide range of quantum systems, enabling scientists to analyze numerous intricate quantum phenomena and better understand the nature of magnetic materials under extreme temperatures and pressures.

Read: The Largest Quantum Simulator With 53 Qubits

As of now, it’s hard to predict where the results of such a simulator are more sensitive to errors and how it overlaps with the regimes of classical simulability.

Written by
Varun Kumar

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