Physicists Entangle 15 Trillion Hot Atoms, Breaking World Record

This discovery may prove useful for improving brain-imaging tech or searching for dark matter.
Fabienne Lang
The glass cell used for the experiment.ICFO

A record-breaking moment happened in the world of physics recently. A team of scientists managed to quantum entangle 15 trillion atoms using heat. 

The team has hopes that their discovery will help improve technology surrounding brain imaging or searching for dark matter

Their study was published in the journal Nature Communications.


A first for quantum science

As per LiveScience's report, this is a first for quantum science. Scientists from the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology in Spain heated up the atoms and turned them into a hot and energized mass.

It's a big day for science as quantum entanglement lies at the core of quantum technologies, which provide huge promise for computing, and communications, among a range of other uses. 

Entanglement states are volatile

Entanglement states are famously volatile, even a small disturbance can usually undo the entanglement. So keeping the temperature low typically helps control this state. However, the team did the opposite and heated up the atoms to 450 Kelvin, which is millions of times warmer than most atoms used for quantum technology. 

Physicists Entangle 15 Trillion Hot Atoms, Breaking World Record
Illustration of the atom cloud. Source: ICFO

The researchers observed that they had created an enormous amount of entangled atoms — roughly 100 times more than ever been previously recorded.

'The entanglement remains for about 1 millisecond'

Jia Kong, first author of the study, noted "that if we stop the measurement, the entanglement remains for about 1 millisecond, which means that 1000 times per second a new batch of 15 trillion atoms is being entangled. And you must think that 1 ms is a very long time for the atoms, long enough for about fifty random collisions to occur. This clearly shows that the entanglement is not destroyed by these random events. This is maybe the most surprising result of the work."

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Kong told LiveScience, "Most entanglement-related quantum technology has to be applied in a low-temperature environment, such as a cold atomic system. This limits the application of entanglement states. [Whether or not] entanglement can survive in a hot and messy environment is an interesting question."

It is no precise enough yet

As per the authors of the study, their new technique won't be used as it is for quantum computers since it's too imprecise. However, it could prove useful to develop ultra-sensitive magnetic sensors for doctors and astrophysicists, for instance. 

"We hope that this kind of giant entangled state will lead to better sensor performance in applications ranging from brain imaging, to self-driving cars, to searches for dark matter," Barcelona physicist Morgan Mitchell said in a press release.

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