Applications of Quantum Mechanics related phenomena represented with the help of GIFs

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Quantum mechanics deals with the study of matter on atomic and subatomic scales. It was the study of quantum mechanics that led to explanation of structure of atom and the nucleus. It also led to the discovery that electrons behave both as waves and as particles. Many applications resulting from quantum theory are in use today, and its applications in the future are potentially infinite. The feature covers the major practical applications of quantum mechanics with their relevant animations.

Quantum Interference

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Image Courtesy: wikipedia.org

The quantum interference principle of quantum mechanics has helped in the simulation of a working molecular thermoelectric material which has the capability of turning heat into electricity. Less than a millionth-of-an-inch in thickness, the material has no moving parts and produces no pollution as it works. A major application of this material could be the one whereby a cars exhaust system could be wrapped in this material and the heat generated by the exhaust system be turned into electricity. The material could also prove useful in case of solar panels as they waste heat during operation and the usage of this dielectric material could not only convert that heat into energy but also help the solar cells operate more efficiently by keeping them cooler. The first animation shows the interference of a quantum particle with itself. The second is an animation of the electron wave packets.

Lasers

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The theory of lasers was first outlined in 1917 in a paper "On the Quantum Theory of Radiation" by Albert Einstein, and the first functional lasers were built in the 1950s. Lasers work by exciting the electrons orbiting atoms, which then emit photons as they return to lower energy levels. The emitted photons emitted then cause other atoms to release photons of the same energy level and direction, creating a steady stream of photons we see as a laser beam. This process operates on founding principles of quantum mechanics which states that atomic energy levels are discrete rather than continuous. Today lasers are at the core of everything from CD players to missile-destroying defense systems and without a proper understanding of quantum mechanics, we likely wouldn't have lasers at all. The animation is that of a LiDAR system which uses laser range finder to scan the area that needs to be digitized.

Quantum Tunneling

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Quantum tunneling can be described as the phenomenon whereby a particle tunnels through a barrier that it cannot climb over. The application of this could be seen in a simple light switch in which the electrons in the electric current could not penetrate the potential barrier made up of a layer of oxide without quantum tunneling. This process can also be used to develop quantum ultraprecise thermometers which can help in measuring temperatures less than a hundredth of a degree above absolute zero. Such thermometers could prove very useful in research laboratories which work with extremely low temperatures.  The animation shows an electron wavepacket that interacts with a barrier and the right side shows the dim spot that represents the tunneling electrons.

Quantum Computing

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The property that quantum particles can exist in multiple states at the same time so can be used to carry out many calculations in parallel is the basis of quantum computing. Very small quantum computers have been created so far since there are technical difficulties involved in building bigger systems. Quantum computers make the use of ‘qubits’, which have the capability of storing more information than the 1 or 0 of the conventional bits. Qubits are quite difficult to create since they require the entanglement of multiple particles and until now only 12 particles have been entangled at once. Quantum computers have the ability to carry out multiple tasks due to parallel processing rather than in a sequential way as the current processors do and thus they tend to be exponentially more powerful. The first animation is that of qubits whereas the second is a visualization of quantum computing.

Quantum Entanglement

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It is a phenomenon whereby two particles are quantumly linked to each other no matter how much the distance they have between them. So when two particles are entangled, a change in one particle will result in an instantaneous change in the other particle regardless of the distance. This phenomenon could be used in the future for communication purposes and thus relay messages by manipulating one particle and causing a corresponding change in its entangled counterpart. Quantum entanglement could be explained with the example of a dime which is halved and placed at two separate locations. A quantum link will allow the first observer to see one side of the dime while the opposite side will be visible to the second observer as shown in the animation. But a major difference between quantum particles and dimes is that a quantum particle is neither a head nor a tail before the moment you look at it. Just by looking at it will result in it becoming either one or the other.

Quantum Teleportation

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It is a process whereby the exact state of an atom or a photon can be transmitted from one locality to the other with the help of quantum entanglement and communication. Though the teleportation of a photon has been achieved recently between two entangled parts, but the transport of much larger molecules has yet to be achieved. Teleportation can be regarded as a form of communication whereby one transports qubit from one place to another without moving a physical particle along with it. Such communication could be quite secure due to quantum entanglement. Like many traditional codes, a quantum code would consist of a series of ones and zeros (clockwise or counterclockwise). But since observing a message will change it, any intruders would be caught in the act. This shows the wide applications in quantum cryptography and communication.

17597   29/09/2014

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