(ScienceAlert) Scientists have observed a quantum vibration at normal room temperature for the first time, a phenomenon that usually requires ultra-cold, carefully calibrated conditions.
The team was able to spot a phonon, a quantum particle of vibration generated from high-frequency laser pulses, in a piece of diamond. These phonons are notoriously hard to detect, partly because of their sensitivity to heat.
The experiment put together by physicist Vivishek Sudhir, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).and colleagues involved shooting a laser at 80 million pulses a second to try to excite the phonons resting in the diamond.
Phonons operate at high frequencies in diamond, which means they’re operating at a higher energy than the surrounding air – that avoids interference from higher thermal energy, which means an ultra-cold, ultra-specific lab setup is no longer required.
Further down the line, this research could also point us towards materials that are going to be suitable for connecting together the quantum computers of the future – materials that will need to carry phonons. “What our work means is that we now have access to a much wider palette of systems to choose from,” says Sudhir.

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