Atom Audio: Scientists Listen to Sound of Quantum Vibrations

September 11, 2014 9:06 PM

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Atom Audio: Scientists Listen to Sound of Quantum Vibrations

What do atoms sound like? Whatever you want them to, it turns out. Scientists have shown that sound waves can be used to interact with an individual atom and make it produce sound in response — on a scale where such waves can barely exist. The Chalmers University of Technology team, led by Per Delsing, used an artificial atom, cooled to nearly absolute zero and mounted on a tiny electronic chip, to show that it's not just light and electromagnetic radiation that can propagate at the quantum level. Their findings were published in the journal Science.

The Swedish researchers tuned a "surface acoustic wave," a sort of vibration of material on the chip itself, to the frequency they expected their custom atom (a very large one at that) to respond to — and succeeded. The atom absorbed the energy of the SAW and produced phonons, a sort of ultra-tiny s...

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