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Physics Frontier Center News

If you holler at someone across your yard, the sound travels on the bustling movement of air molecules. But over long distances your voice needs help to reach its destination—help provided by a telephone or the Internet. Atoms don’t yell, but they can share information through light. And they also need help connecting over long distances.

Now, researchers at the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) have shown that nanofibers can provide a link between far-flung atoms, serving as a light...

The idea of a pump is at least as old as the ancient Greek philosopher and scientist Archimedes. More than 2000 years ago, Archimedes allegedly invented a corkscrew pump that could lift water up an incline with the turn of a handle. Versions of the ancient invention still bear his name and are used today in agriculture and...

The swirling field of a magnet—rendered visible by a sprinkling of iron filings—emerges from the microscopic behavior of atoms and their electrons. In permanent magnets, neighboring atoms align and lock into place to create inseparable north and south poles. For other materials, magnetism can be induced by a field strong enough to coax atoms into alignment.In both cases, atoms are typically...

The behavior of a few rubidium atoms in a cloud of 40,000 hardly seems important. But a handful of the tiny particles with the wrong energy may cause a cascade of effects that could impact future quantum computers. Some proposals for quantum devices use Rydberg atoms—atoms with highly excited electrons that roam far from the nucleus—because they interact strongly with each other and offer easy...

When it comes to quantum physics, light and matter are not so different. Under certain circumstances, negatively charged electrons can fall into a coordinated dance that allows them to carry a current through a material laced with imperfections. That motion, which can only occur if electrons are confined to a two-dimensional plane, arises due to a phenomenon known as the quantum Hall effect....

Jay Deep Sau, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Maryland and fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute, was awarded a Sloan Research Fellowship for 2016. This award, granted by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, identifies 126...

Today’s networks use electronic circuits to store information and optical fibers to carry it, and quantum networks may benefit from a similar framework. Such networks would transmit qubits – quantum versions of ordinary bits – from place to place and would offer unbreakable security for the transmitted information. But researchers must first develop ways for qubits that are better at storing...

Harnessing quantum systems for information processing will require controlling large numbers of basic building blocks called qubits. The qubits must be isolated, and in most cases cooled such that, among other things, errors in qubit operations do not overwhelm the system, rendering it useless. Led by JQI Fellow Christopher Monroe, physicists have recently demonstrated important steps towards...

The concept of temperature is critical in describing many physical phenomena, such as the transition from one phase of matter to another. Turn the temperature knob and interesting things can happen. But other knobs might be just as important for studying some phenomena. One such knob is chemical potential, a thermodynamic parameter first introduced in the nineteenth century by scientists for...

Particles can be classified as bosons or fermions. A defining characteristic of a boson is its ability to pile into a single quantum state with other bosons. Fermions are not allowed to do this. One broad impact of fermionic anti-social behavior is that it allows for carbon-based life forms, like us, to exist. If the universe were solely made from bosons, life would certainly not look like it...

Two physical phenomena, localization and ergodicity-breaking, are conjoined in new experimental and theoretical work.  Before we consider possible implications for fundamental physics and for prospective quantum computing, let’s first look at these two topics in turn.  It will bear providing some specific examples before getting to the quantum details.

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