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Researchers Found Two Atoms Talking

Researchers from the Delft University of Technology in collaboration with RWTH Aachen University and the Researchers Center Jülich have now been able to intercept a chat between Two Atoms. The study was published in Science.

Two Atoms don’t talk with each other. They can react to each other. This is particularly the case for magnetic atoms. Sander Otte, leader of the team that performed the research said that each atom carries a small magnetic moment called spin. These spins influence each other, like compass needles do when you bring them close together. If you give one of them a push, they will start moving together in a very specific way. According to the laws of quantum mechanics, each spin can be simultaneously pointed in various directions, forming a superposition. This means that the actual transfer of quantum information takes place between the atoms, like some sort of conversation.

An example of this phenomenon is superconductivity that affects where some materials lose all electrical resistivity below a critical temperature. While well understood for the simplest cases, nobody knows exactly how this effect comes about in many complex materials. The magnetic quantum interactions play a key role. Scientists are very interested in being able to intercept these exchanges; to overhear the conversations between atoms.

Researchers put Two Atoms next to each other to observe what was happening. This is possible by scanning a tunnelling microscope which is a device with a sharp needle that can probe atoms one by one and can even rearrange them. The Researchers used this device to place Two Atoms at a distance of just over one-nanometer one-millionth of a millimeter. The atoms are just able to detect each other’s spin. The twist is performed by sending very precise radio signals to the atoms. This so-called spin resonance technique which is quite reminiscent of the working principle of an MRI scanner found in hospitals is used successfully in research on quantum bits.

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