Scientists make a quantum harmonic oscillator at room temperature

(left) the trapped quantum fluid as seen under a microscope and (right) the figures of the single harmonic oscillation states of the quantum fluid when the fluid is trapped in a drop in the intensity of the laser beams (dashed line). credit: Nature Communications (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-34440-0

A quantum harmonic oscillator—a structure that can control the location and energy of quantum particles that can be used in the future to develop new technologies including OLEDs and miniature lasers—was fabricated at room temperature by researchers led by St. Andrews.

The research was carried out in collaboration with scientists at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and is published in Nature Communications Recently, organic semiconductors have been used to produce polaritons, which exhibit quantum states even at room temperature.

Polaritons are quantum mixtures of light and matter that are created by combining excitations in a semiconductor material with photons, the fundamental particles that make up light. To create the polaritons, the researchers confined light to a thin layer of organic semiconductor (the type of light-emitting material used in OLED smartphone screens) 100 times thinner than a single human hair, sandwiched between two highly reflective mirrors.

Polaritons, like moisture in the air, can condense and form a kind of liquid. The researchers collected this quantum liquid within a pattern of laser beams to control its properties. This caused the fluid to oscillate at a series of harmonic frequencies similar to the vibrations of a violin string. The shape of these quantum states of vibration is identical to that of a “quantum harmonic oscillator”.

One of the project leaders, Dr Hamid Ohadi, from the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews, said, “This is a problem in textbook that we look at with our students in our quantum physics courses is the quantum harmonic oscillator. We used to think that one needed sophisticated cooling methods to see these oscillators And we found that this basic physical phenomenon can be seen at room temperature as well.”

His colleague Professor Graham Turnbull added: “By studying this quantum oscillator, we learn how to control the position and motion of the polaritons. In the future, we hope to exploit this knowledge to develop new quantum technologies for environmental sensing, or new types of OLEDs and miniature lasers.”

Professor Ivor Samuel, also part of the project team at St Andrews, said: “One of the most remarkable aspects of this study is that we excite the sample in one place, but see the laser (polariton) in another, which shows that a quantum mixture or light and matter can They can travel precise distances. This could be useful not only for lasers, but also for solar cells.”

more information:
Mengjie Wei et al, Optically trapped room-temperature polaritons in an organic semiconductor, Nature Communications (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-34440-0

Provided by the University of St Andrews

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