|Marco Foronda |||Mar 31, 2015 11:04 AM EDT|
(Photo : CHRISTINE DANILOFF/MIT AND JOSE-LUIS OLIVARES/MIT) Scientists have entangled a record 3,000 atoms. Here, an illustration showing a large number of atoms (purple) mutually entangled with one another.
For the first time, scientists linked together over 3,000 atoms in a bizarre state known as quantum entanglement where the behavior of the atoms stays connected even if they're at opposite ends of the universe.
Quantum entanglement is a distinctive development where two particles become interconnected. Anything you do to one particle has an instant effect on the other regardless of the distance between them, even if one particle is on the Earth and the other is on the Moon.
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It's vital because scientists can use it in the development of atomic clocks that are critical to accurate GPS. The most sophisticated atomic clocks have an accuracy of one second in 300 million years, and that is what makes it so impressive.
GPS navigation could be better improved by this discovery since GPS requires clocks with accuracy to at least one billionth of a second to prevent you from getting lost.
"Today's atomic clocks have reached an almost unimaginable level of accuracy - the best would be less than a minute off if they ran since the Big Bang," said study co-author Vladan Vuleti, a physics professor at MIT.
Today's best atomic clocks are based on oscillations within a cloud of trapped atoms, which make them essentially act like pendulums, keeping a steady beat.
A laser beam fired through such a cloud can detect the vibrations of the atoms and use them to tell time. The accuracy of atomic clocks improves as more and more atoms oscillate within a cloud.
Since entangling atoms links their behavior, the more atoms researchers entangle, the more they might oscillate together, improving their use in timekeeping.
In general, physicists can only entangle pairs of particles or atoms. Past records show only 100 entangled atoms.
The new process allows the entanglement of over 3,000 by utilizing a really weak laser where each laser pulse contained a single light particle.
The team of researchers is now working on a new state-of-the-art atomic clock that could become the new standard of accuracy, and could lead to an improved GPS.
The research could also determine how to beam encrypted quantum messages around the globe, a revolutionary faster way to securely communicate.
Their finding appeared in the journal Nature.
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