Quantum physics is studying everything around us at the atomic level, atoms, electrons, and particles. Because of the way atoms and electrons behave, scientists describe their behavior as like waves.
Unlike particles that travel in straight lines, Waves can go anywhere. But, if there are enough random obstacles, the waves cannot get through because they interfere with each other and cancel themselves out.
At low temperatures, the matter can be made to behave much like light, i.e., light behaves the same way all waves do, whether light waves or ocean waves. In its interaction with matter, light can act like it is composed of particles that don’t go around objects but instead travel in a straight line.
In the Quantum Information Lab at the University, scientists took this experiment to the next level by adding an ultra-cold atom experiment to the mix. Using high-tech lasers, they were able to control these ultra-cold atoms until they became so cold, and their wave behavior became visible.
This study took seven years to complete, could lead to improved spectroscopic techniques, laser techniques, interferometric high-precision measurements, and atomic beam applications.
Dr. Hoogerland said, “We are talking a billionth of a degree above absolute zero (-273.15 degrees C), so that is pretty chilly. We have created customized patterns of obstacles to stop the waves, and when we take a picture, we can find out where these atoms are. This way, we can see what exactly is required to get our quantum-mechanical waves to reflect off obstacles, and why the waves do not get in.”
“From this research emerges a deeper understanding of the quantum world, which in turn determines what happens in the world around us. Spin-offs from this research are improved spectroscopic techniques, laser techniques, interferometric high-precision measurements, and atomic beam applications.”
- Donald H. White et al. Observation of two-dimensional Anderson localization of ultracold atoms, Nature Communications (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-18652-w