Using a quirk of quantum mechanics, researchers have created a beryllium crystal capable of detecting incredibly weak electromagnetic fields. The work could one day be used to detect hypothetical dark matter particles called axions.
The researchers created their quantum crystal by trapping 150 charged beryllium particles or ions using a system of electrodes and magnetic fields that helped overcome their natural repulsion for each other, Ana Maria Rey, an atomic physicist at JILA, a joint institute between the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Colorado Boulder, told Live Science….
The team figured out a way to get around this limit with entanglement, where quantum particles’ attributes are inherently linked together.
“By using entanglement, we can sense things that aren’t possible otherwise,” Rey said.
In this case, she and her colleagues entangled the motions of the beryllium ions with their spins. Quantum systems resemble tiny tops and spin describes the direction, say up or down, that those tops are pointing.
When the crystal vibrated, it would move a certain amount. But because of the uncertainty…