Quantum mechanics of mesoscopic objects
Quantum mechanics governs properties and motions of elementary particles, atoms or even large organic molecules, but it does not manifest itself that much on a larger scale of everyday objects. Experimental physicist Iurie Coroli and his team want to probe quantum properties of mesoscopic objects, a scale between microscopic (atoms) and macroscopic (everyday objects). Therefore they work with glass particles of 150 nanometers in diameter, which are still small but already have billions of atoms, and levitate them in so-called "optical tweezers" – a high power focused laser beam. In their previous experiment the nanoparticle interacted with light so strongly that it entered a quite exotic regime, which Iurie Coroli will study closer at the experiment he is currently building.
Why do everyday macroscopic objects not show quantum behaviour?
"To answer this big research question we take baby steps," Iurie Coroli smiles. The goal is to isolate the glass particles they work with environmental effects. To do so, the researchers levitate them with a high-power laser beam working at extremely low pressures.
An exotic regime to study
As a starting point, by making the light interact with particles the physicists can remove its energy to the lowest level by quantum mechanics where it only moves a few picometres. "It turns out that in our system this interaction is so strong that it is a very interesting and exotic regime to study and this is exactly what I do," the young reasearcher explains. Building such a system that allows to reach and study this regime is Iurie Coroli's main task at the moment: "My job now is to buy necessary equipment using group budget and assemble it into an apparatus that works."
Pushing technology forward
The impact of this research on society is quite hard to predict. Fundamental research generally pushes technology forward but when and how exactly this is going to happen is a big question. Iurie Coroli takes a look into the future: "Our platform may be used as a very high sensitivity inertia sensor to study short-range interactions important in solid-state physics or to study thermodynamics in quantum regime that may help make computer memories better."