Zurich - The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) is paving the way for studying quantum phenomena and building highly sensitive sensors. It has made this possible through a new method that can cool several nanoparticles independently down to a few millikelvin.

A team of researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) led by Professor Lukas Novotny at the Department of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering has made major progress for the study of quantum phenomena. According to a press release, it has developed a technique to trap and cool several nanoparticles independently of their electric charge all the way down to a few thousandths of a degree above the absolute zero.

Up to now nanoparticles needed to have an electric charge. The research group has been working on these entirely new perspectives for research over the past ten years. During this period, it has perfected the cooling of single electrically charged nanoparticles, known as optical tweezers.

The amplitude of oscillation is reduced by cooling the particles, which then allows them to be studied, explained Jayadev Vijayan, a postdoctoral student and lead author of the paper recently published in the scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology. “Since we have full control over the positions of the particles, we can arbitrarily tune the interactions between them; in that way, in the future we can study quantum effects of several particles, such as entanglement.”

This opens up various possibilities, such as building highly sensitive sensors. These sensors could be used when measuring very weak gravitational forces between objects or searching for hypothetical dark matter, where eliminating electrostatic forces between charged particles as much as possible is desirable. “The method developed by the ETH researchers promises new insights in those fields, too.”

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