Listening to quantum radio

March 8, 2019, Delft University of Technology
This quantum chip (1x1cm) allows the researchers to listen to the smallest radio signal allowed by quantum mechanics. Credit: TU Delft

Researchers at Delft University of Technology have created a quantum circuit to listen to the weakest radio signal allowed by quantum mechanics. This new quantum circuit opens the door to possible future applications in areas such as radio astronomy and medicine (MRI). It also enables experiments to shed light on the interplay between quantum mechanics and gravity. The results have been published in Science.

The usual solution to a weak radio signal is to find a bigger signal, for instance, by picking a different radio station or by moving to the other side of the room. However,m what if we could just listen more carefully?

Weak radio signals are not just a challenge for people trying to find their favourite radio station, but also for imaging (MRI) scanners at hospitals, as well as for the telescopes scientists use to peer into space. In a in radio frequency detection, researchers in the group of Prof. Gary Steele in Delft demonstrated the detection of photons or quanta of energy, the weakest signals allowed by the theory of mechanics.

Quantum chunks

One of the strange predictions of quantum mechanics is that energy comes in tiny little chunks called quanta. What does this mean? "Say I am pushing a kid on a swing," says lead researcher Mario Gely. "In the classical theory of physics, if I want the kid to go a little bit faster I can give them a small push, giving them more speed and more energy. Quantum mechanics says something different: I can only increase the kid's energy one 'quantum step' at a time. Pushing by half of that amount is not possible."

Electron microscope picture of the quantum circuit built by the researchers. The width of the picture corresponds to only a third of a millimetre. Credit: TU Delft

For a kid on a swing, these quantum steps are so tiny that they are too small to notice. Until recently, the same was true for radio waves. However, the research team in Delft developed a circuit that can actually detect these chunks of energy in radio frequency signals, opening up the potential for sensing radio waves at the quantum level.

From quantum radio to quantum gravity?

Beyond applications in quantum sensing, the group in Delft is interested in taking quantum mechanics to the next level: mass. While the theory of quantum electromagnetism was developed nearly 100 years ago, physicists are still puzzled today on how to fit gravity into quantum mechanics.

This quantum chip (1x1cm) allows the researchers to listen to the smallest radio signal allowed by quantum mechanics. Credit: TU Delft
"Using our quantum radio, we want to try to listen to and control the quantum vibrations of heavy objects, and explore experimentally what happens when you mix quantum mechanics and gravity," Gely said. "Such experiments are hard, but if successful we would be able to test if we can make a quantum superposition of space-time itself, a new concept that would test our understanding of both and general relativity."

Explore further: How Einstein's equivalence principle extends to the quantum world

More information: Mario F. Gely et al. Observation and stabilization of photonic Fock states in a hot radio-frequency resonator, Science (2019). DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw3101

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19 comments

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dirk_bruere
4 / 5 (3) Mar 08, 2019
So, no description on how they did this? Or how sensitive it is in numerical terms? Or what its frequency range is? etc etc
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (3) Mar 08, 2019
Wow, radio signal detection with single photons. These are very low-energy photons, and therefore very difficult to detect. This is pretty impressive.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (6) Mar 08, 2019
@dirk, yeah, note that this press release was written by a Journalism 101 student at Delft.

This is an increasing problem. There's little point in having discussions about science communications and then making press releases by dimwits.
flashgordon
1 / 5 (2) Mar 08, 2019
they made a quantum entangled radio using superconducting qubits . . . they could use this for quantum radar - probably. I can't wait till quantum radars and the ability to find all those nuke subs . . . then, what are all these militaries giong to do?
MR166
3.5 / 5 (2) Mar 08, 2019
"This is an increasing problem. There's little point in having discussions about science communications and then making press releases by dimwits."

I know that I have made my share of snide remarks based on the ignorance of the authors that were reporting on a paper. Why do researchers and institutions put up with ignorant reporters degrading the apparent value of the research?
TechnoCreed
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 08, 2019
@ MR166
The purpose of communication agent is not submit a boiled down version of a paper, but to promote it. So if you want to know more, they have done a good job. In this case the communication agent is a doctor https://www.tudel..._cache=1
For those who want to know more, here is the paper. https://arxiv.org...7267.pdf
Old_C_Code
not rated yet Mar 08, 2019
How can they possibly measure any intelligent signal given the intense quantum noise all around everywhere?

Seems they'd have the same problem as the NOISE MARGIN in any electronic system.
Castrogiovanni
3.3 / 5 (7) Mar 08, 2019
"This is an increasing problem. There's little point in having discussions about science communications and then making press releases by dimwits."

I know that I have made my share of snide remarks based on the ignorance of the authors that were reporting on a paper. Why do researchers and institutions put up with ignorant reporters degrading the apparent value of the research?


Ignore the PRs and read the papers. If possible. Unfortunately a number will be paywalled, but far from all. And getting around paywalls? GIYF.
rrwillsj
4.3 / 5 (4) Mar 08, 2019
For research so complex, so specialized, so advanced beyond the educational level of the General Populace?

How would you explain the experiments & the results?
Any more coherently?

I'm not surprised they avoided technical details. Most people trying to read that deep (including me) would fall asleep!

As for the rest of you?
I only believe that the half of your claims to specific technixal comprehension are as half-believable as my own incomprehension.
& the third half of you. are just flat out lying about how much you actually understand.
Hell, I think my own level of understanding damn near approaches nil.
& I'm suppose to believe your claims?
"Go ahead, pull the other one!"
dirk_bruere
2.3 / 5 (4) Mar 09, 2019
"How would you explain the experiments & the results?
Any more coherently? "

Who is physorg aimed at? High school students? Arts graduates? I suspect most of us reading this article have a background in the sciences. This article is just too dumbed down. If the response is always going to be "read the paper" I might as well unsub from physorg
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2019
dirk, in general. I agree with you. Bit this article was written & distributed for popular consumption across a multitude of media.

It may appeal to our vanity to believe we are above the common herd? For our educations?
The reality of the economics for Phys.org to stay in business is to provide a wide eange of products. What ever we think of each article.

& the proof is in the pudding.
"Ooo, currants & cinnamon!"

Check out the number of articles that have zero viewers.
Note what is popular & what is ignored.
In my opinion, based on an random, dilatory survey over the last few years?
The majority of technical oriented articles go unread.

We each have our favorite subjects. & as much as I like to think of myself as an encyclopedian?
I have too deliberately force myself to peruse subjects I am usually indifferent to.
Cause every pudding has a plum hiding within!
Searching for the plums of knowledge builds character.
& mine is quite the cynical satirist.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (2) Mar 09, 2019
How can they possibly measure any intelligent signal given the intense quantum noise all around everywhere?

Seems they'd have the same problem as the NOISE MARGIN in any electronic system.
Well, this isn't about sending signals with single photons; if it were, then you'd be right. But if you're looking for MRI signals, or doing radio astronomy, then the more signal you get the better your S/N ratio. And this technique lets you get all the signal there is (plus any noise that came in with it); its big advantage is it doesn't inject any noise in the receiver.

This is very, very far from being a "quantum radio," however; what they're doing now is simply detecting single photons at unprecedentedly low energy. This lets them do some difficult thermodynamics experiments at the quantum level, which is the main new capability that this new technique enables.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (2) Mar 09, 2019
Since I dug it up anyway, here's the link to the arXiv pre-print: https://arxiv.org...7267.pdf
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (2) Mar 09, 2019
Meanwhile anyone who thinks this stuff is simple should try to figure out what a "Foch state" is.

That should separate the posers from the folks who know what they're talking about.
pntaylor
1 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2019
"& the proof is in the pudding.
"Ooo, currants & cinnamon!""

LOL! A little ADD there, huh Willis? HA.
rrwillsj
3 / 5 (2) Mar 09, 2019
Eye due lhuve mye puddin'!

Da Schneib, as handsome a poser as myself? I must honestly admit I do not understand the difference between the states of Foch or Fock. As if I give a Feechk!

& I must thank you for completely blowing my previous comment right out of the hottub!

With your clear & coherent explanation of the meaning of the research described in the article.

I mean, I could actually understand the science you were describing!

Now that's a gift for all your readers. I'm sure some of them even like you. The others? Who cares...
antigoracle
1 / 5 (3) Mar 09, 2019
Meanwhile anyone who thinks this stuff is simple should try to figure out what a "Foch state" is. .

Hey Da Schitts, isn't that when your boyfriend misses the "sweet spot" in your rectum and leaves you unsatisfied or is that FOCK as stated in the article.
LMAO.
rrwillsj
5 / 5 (4) Mar 10, 2019
auntieoral, you poor pathetic creature...Such a sad, sad case of sexual fetish fixation on excrement.

auntieoral, no matter your delusions of adequacy, I do not believe I have been leading you on?

No matter how much you beg & plead & grovel?
I'lI never leave Da Sxhneib for such a sorely-assed loser as you.
Jeffhans1
2 / 5 (1) Mar 11, 2019
they made a quantum entangled radio using superconducting qubits . . . they could use this for quantum radar - probably. I can't wait till quantum radars and the ability to find all those nuke subs . . . then, what are all these militaries giong to do?

Figure out how to make quantum radio absorbing or blocking metamaterials would be my guess. We should be able to detect the neutrinos coming from any nukes under the ocean with enough precision to track them by that time though so we will be moving away from those anyway.

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