Friday, April 8, 2011

The 'molecular octopus': A little brother of 'Schroedinger’s cat'

For the first time, the quantum behaviour of molecules consisting of more than 400 atoms was demonstrated by quantum physicists based at the University of Vienna in collaboration with chemists from Basel and Delaware. The international and interdisciplinary team of scientists has set a new record in the verification of the quantum properties of nanoparticles.

In addition, an important aspect of the famous thought experiment known as 'Schroedinger's cat' is probed. However, due to the particular shape of the chosen molecules the reported experiment could be more fittingly called 'molecular octopus'.

The researchers report their findings in Nature Communications.

Schroedinger's cat': simultaneously dead and alive?

Since the beginning of the 20th century, quantum mechanics has been a pillar of modern physics. Still, some of its predictions seem to disagree with our common sense and the observations in our everyday life. This contradiction was brought to the fore 80 years ago by the Austrian physicist Erwin Schroedinger; he wondered whether it was possible to realize states of extreme superposition such as, for example, that of a cat which is simultaneously dead and alive. This experiment has not been realized with actual cats for good reasons. Nevertheless, the successful experiments by Gerlich et al. show that it is possible to reproduce important aspects of this thought experiment with large organic molecules. ...

The use of specifically synthesized organic molecules consisting of complexes of up to 430 atoms enabled the researchers to demonstrate the quantum wave nature in mass and size regimes that hitherto had been experimentally inaccessible. These particles are comparable in size, mass and complexity to Insulin molecules and exhibit many features of classical objects. Nevertheless, in the current experiment the tailor-made molecules can exist in a superposition of clearly distinguishable positions and therefore -- similar to 'Schroedinger's cat' -- in a state that is excluded in classical physics.

via The 'molecular octopus': A little brother of 'Schroedinger’s cat'.

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