Physicists invent flux capacitor, break time-reversal symmetry

May 28, 2018, FLEET
An electronic circulator keeps information moving in a certain direction, much like a roundabout. (But in a circulator, ‘traffic’ must  always take the next exit after they enter.)

In the popular movie franchise "Back to the Future", an eccentric scientist creates a time machine that runs on a flux capacitor.

Now a group of actual physicists from Australia and Switzerland have proposed a device which uses the tunneling of around a capacitor, breaking time-reversal symmetry.

The research, published this week in Physical Review Letters, proposes a of electronic circulators, which are devices that control the direction in which microwave signals move.

It represents a collaboration between two Australian Research Council Centres of Excellence: the Centre for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS) and the Centre for Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies (FLEET).

FLEET Associate Investigator Professor Jared Cole (working at RMIT University) said the proposed device is built from a superconductor, in which electricity can flow without electrical resistance.

Professor Cole added, "We propose two different possible circuits, one of which resembles the iconic three-pointed-star design of the cinematic flux capacitor. (See images.)

"In it, quantum 'tubes' of magnetic flux can move around a central capacitor by a process known as , where they overcome classically insurmountable obstacles."

Schematic representation of the proposed circulator. Credit: FLEET

The combination of magnetic fields and electric charges leads to what the physicists call broken .

"Unfortunately this effect does not allow us to actually travel back in time," Professor Tom Stace (University of Queensland) said.

"Instead, it means that signals circulate around the circuit in only one direction, much like cars on a roundabout," he said.

Such a device can be used for example to isolate parts of an experimental apparatus from each other, which is crucial when the individual parts are extremely sensitive quantum systems.

Lead author Dr Clemens Mueller (ETH Zurich) said this device is a crucial component for next-generation technologies, including the long sought-after quantum computer.

Dr Mueller said, "Our research makes an important step towards scaling up this technology, where researchers need to precisely direct control and measurement signals around a quantum computer."

Physicists invent flux capacitor, break time-reversal symmetry
The operation of the microwave circulator resembles the flux capacitor from Back to the Future. Credit: FLEET

In the nearer term, the research could find application in the development of better electronics for mobile phone and wifi antennas and improving radar.

The paper, "A passive on-chip, superconducting circulator using a ring of tunnel junctions," was published in Physical Review Letters on 23 May 2018.

The two participating ARC Centres of Excellence form part of Australia's significant strength in quantum research.

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS) researchers are building quantum machines that harness the full spectrum of quantum physics.

The ARC Centre of Excellence in Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies (FLEET) is developing a new generation of ultra low-energy electronics to address the increasing challenge of energy use in computation.

Explore further: New quantum device set to support measurement standards of the electrical current

More information: Clemens Müller et al. Passive On-Chip Superconducting Circulator Using a Ring of Tunnel Junctions, Physical Review Letters (2018). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.120.213602

Related Stories

Key component to scale up quantum computing

November 28, 2017

A team at the University of Sydney and Microsoft, in collaboration with Stanford University in the US, has miniaturised a component that is essential for the scale-up of quantum computing. The work constitutes the first practical ...

Quantum coupling

December 21, 2017

Today's quantum technologies are set to revolutionize information processing, communications, and sensor technology in the coming decades. The basic building blocks of future quantum processors are, for example, atoms, superconducting ...

Superconducting qubits can function as quantum engines

October 2, 2017

(Phys.org)—Physicists have shown that superconducting circuits—circuits that have zero electrical resistance—can function as piston-like mechanical quantum engines. The new perspective may help researchers design quantum ...

Recommended for you

Physics: Not everything is where it seems to be

October 16, 2018

Scientists at TU Wien, the University of Innsbruck and the ÖAW have for the first time demonstrated a wave effect that can lead to measurement errors in the optical position estimation of objects. The work now published ...

The state of the early universe: The beginning was fluid

October 16, 2018

Scientists from the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, and their colleagues from the international ALICE collaboration recently collided xenon nuclei in the superconducting Large Hadron Collider in order to gain ...

15 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

humy
3.7 / 5 (3) May 28, 2018
Oh do they really have to use the term "flux capacitor"?
Ryan1981
not rated yet May 28, 2018
"Unfortunately this effect does not allow us to actually travel back in time,"


Is it really unfortunate though?
antialias_physorg
4.6 / 5 (12) May 28, 2018
Oh do they really have to use the term "flux capacitor"?

Why not? It uses flux and it's a capacitor...and, of course, almost all scientists are huge SciFi nerds.

Scientists are allowed to have fun, too. My favorite is the "penguin anomaly"...which only exists because some physicist lost a game of darts and had to use the word 'penguin' in their next publication as a result.

https://www.quant...0150320/
SkyAbove
5 / 5 (2) May 28, 2018
The scientist better hurry, the price of Delorean cars are going to skyrocket because of this article.
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (2) May 28, 2018
Whoa Nelly! Back this cart up. Somebody forgot to attach the pony between the shafts. So far only mere wishful thinking is available to pull the damn thing!

If you only read the clickbait headline and the first two paragraphs of the article? The gullible would assume this was a done deal and when can they drive it.

Did someone mention a pony could be found at the bottom of that manure pile? If you dig heartedly? I suspect what we will find is a sweaty ass holding the shovel.
axemaster
5 / 5 (6) May 28, 2018
Scientists are allowed to have fun, too. My favorite is the "penguin anomaly"...which only exists because some physicist lost a game of darts and had to use the word 'penguin' in their next publication as a result.

https://www.quant...0150320/


Thank you for this, I got a good laugh out of it!
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (2) May 31, 2018
That's okay BN. You could always go back in time and fix your mistake.

Any day now...

Yep. Right about then.

Whoops! You were traveling so fast, you forgot to stop on the right date. Has Friar Serra shown up yet?

Oh, I'm sure he'll be by any year now. May as well relax and chill out man. Enjoy the indigenous ambience. It won't last much longer.
ZoeBell
Jun 01, 2018
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
434a
not rated yet Jun 01, 2018
For those of us not living a Münchhausenian psychosis here's the actually "inventor" of the flux capacitor in interview.

https://www.drivi...pacitor/
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (3) Jun 02, 2018
434a, is anything on the internet real? Or is it all defined by entertainment value for selling over-priced crappy merchandise to the passive viewers?
savvys84
1 / 5 (1) Jun 04, 2018
Well time machines are not that far away imo.

https://www.scrib...savvys84
ZoeBell
Jun 04, 2018
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
ZoeBell
Jun 04, 2018
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
ZoeBell
Jun 04, 2018
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
SURFIN85
not rated yet Jun 04, 2018
Once again, life imitates art

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.