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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Going quantum with radio waves

Cecile G. Tamura
Weak radio signals are not just a challenge for people trying to find their favorite radio station, but alfavouriteagnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners at hospitals, as well as for the telescopes scientists use to peer into space.
The usual answer for a weak radio signal is to locate a strong signal, for example, by picking an alternate radio station or by moving to the opposite side of the room. However, imagine a scenario in which we could simply listen more cautiously.
Now, scientists at the Delft University of Technology have found the answer to this. They have devised a quantum circuit to listen to the weakest radio signal allowed by quantum mechanics.
In a quantum leap in radio frequency detection, researchers in the group of Prof. Gary Steele in Delft demonstrated the detection of photons or quanta of energy, the weakest signals allowed by the theory of quantum mechanics.
Gely et al. used a superconducting qubit, initially developed for circuit quantum electrodynamics (cQED) and quantum information processing for microwaves, to directly observe the quantization of radio-frequency electromagnetic fields stored in a photonic microresonator. They were then able to manipulate the quantum state of the radio-frequency field, forming one- and two-photon Fock states within the microresonator, and analyze how the system interacts dynamically with its environment. The cQED approach could be used for fundamental studies in quantum thermodynamics and also find practical application in imaging.

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