An international team of scientists, including experts from the University of Adelaide, has designed a quantum thermometer to measure the ultra-cold temperatures of space and time predicted by Einstein and the laws of quantum mechanics.
dr. James Q. Quach, Ramsay Fellow, School of Physical Sciences and the University of Adelaide’s Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) led the study.
“We have designed a quantum thermometer that can measure extremely small changes in temperature,” he said.
“The theoretical design of the quantum thermometer is based on the same technology used to build quantum computers.”
Einstein predicted that the speed at which you experience time depends on the speed at which you travel: A person who is moving very quickly ages more slowly than someone who is standing still. This led to his General Theory of Relativity, which says that space and time work together like a fabric that can bend and warp.
The relationship between temperature and acceleration is similar to the relationship between time and speed. Different observers moving at different accelerations would observe different, albeit minute, temperature differences.
“In 1976, Canadian physicist William Unruh combined Einstein’s work with the other fundamental theory of modern physics, quantum mechanics, and predicted that the fabric of space-time has a very low temperature,” said Dr. quach.
“Intriguingly, this temperature changed depending on how fast you were moving.
“To see this temperature change, you would have to move extremely fast. To see even just one degree of temperature change, you would have to get close to the speed of light.
“Until now, these extreme speeds have prevented researchers from verifying Unruh’s theory.”
dr. Quach and his colleagues Professor William Munro of NTT Basic Research Laboratories in Japan and Professor Timothy Ralph of the University of Queensland published their work in the journal Physical Assessment Letters .
“In theory, a quantum thermometer doesn’t need to physically accelerate, but instead uses a magnetic field to accelerate the device’s internal energy gap,” said Dr. quach.
“The quantum thermometer can be built with current technology.”
The team’s work has important implications for future research. The quantum thermometer can be used to measure ultra-cold temperatures with a precision that conventional thermometers cannot.
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James Q. Quach et al, Berry Phase from the Entanglement of Future and Past Light Cones: Detecting the Timelike Unruh Effect, Physical Assessment Letters (2022). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.129.160401
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