Scientists have just offered a fascinating window into the infinitely small. thanks to a quantum computer, managed to slow down a vital chemical process by a factor of 100 billion. An unprecedented observation that opens the way to multiple applications, from materials science to the protection of the ozone layer. Curious to understand what happens under the microscope?
A research team from the University of Sydney was able to observe the interference pattern of a single atom caused by a common geometric structure in chemistry called conic intersection.
« By understanding these basic processes within and between molecules we can open up a whole new world of possibilities in materials science, drug design, or solar energy harvesting. said Vanessa Olaya Agudelo, a researcher and doctoral student.
Conical intersections are essential for fast photochemical processes, such as human vision or photosynthesis. However, their direct observation is difficult due to the extremely fast time frames involved.
A solution from quantum physics and chemistry
To get around this obstacle, researchers in quantum physics and chemistry have used a Trapped ion quantum computer in a totally innovative way. This approach allowed them to map this very complex problem onto a relatively small quantum device, and then slow the process down by a factor of 100 billion.
Their findings were published in the journal chemistry of nature.
Revealed dynamics at observable scale
« In kind, the entire process is completed in a few femtoseconds.s,” said Vanessa Olaya Agudelo. ” That’s one billionth of a millionth (or one trillionth) of a second. »
Quantum technology has made it possible to slow down this dynamic from femtoseconds to milliseconds, opening up the possibility of meaningful observations and measurements.
« Until now, we have not been able to directly observe the dynamics of the “geometric phase”; It happens too fast to be tested experimentally. “, commented for his part Dr. Christophe Valahu, co-author of the study.
The quantum computer used to perform the experiment is located in the quantum control laboratory of Professor Michael Biercuk, founder of the quantum startup Q-CTRL. The experimental effort was led by Dr. Ting Rei Tan.
Dr. Tan, co-author of the study, concluded: “This is a fantastic collaboration between chemical theorists and experimental quantum physicists. We’re using a new approach to physics to solve a longstanding problem in chemistry.“.
This research marks a turning point in the understanding of fast and complex chemical processes. It demonstrates the immense potential of quantum computers in the analysis of ultrafast dynamics at the molecular level. Therefore, the work of this Australian team constitutes a valuable milestone for materials science, medicine and environmental protection.
For better understanding
What is a conic intersection?
An intercept conic is a geometric structure that occurs during fast chemical reactions and is crucial to processes like photosynthesis.
What is slowing down by a factor of 100 billion?
Using a quantum computer, the researchers were able to slow down the chemical process enough to observe it directly, which was previously impossible.
What are the practical applications of this research?
This discovery could open up new avenues in materials science, drug design, and even ozone layer protection.
What next for these researchers?
The team plans to deepen their understanding of molecular dynamics and explore other possible applications of their method.
Main illustration caption: Vanessa Olaya Agudelo and Dr. Christophe Valahu in front of the Sydney Nanoscience Hub quantum computer used for the experiment. Credit: Stefanie Zingsheim
( Writing )