Quantum Entanglement: Diamond Edition

Get this:

Quantum entanglement has long been limited to microscopic particles and super cold temperatures. While entanglement of macroscopic objects has been theorized to be possible, quantum entanglement has proven to be too delicate and finicky to be applied to larger (or warmer) objects, instead requiring highly controlled environments.

Until now.

Researchers from the University of Oxford, the National Research Council of Canada and the National University of Singapore released a study yesterday that proves entanglement is no longer confined to ultracold, microscopic particles.

Galleons, we’ve entangled diamonds.

The experiment used a pair of macroscopic diamond wafers, one of which is shown here with a coin for scale:

Exploiting the vibrational properties of the crystal lattices of the diamond wafers, our group shot an optical pulse at a diamond, causing an excitation known as a phonon (a quantum of vibrational energy). We know when a diamond contains a phonon because, when we check the light of the pulse as it exits, we find that one of the outbound photons is of a lower energy (thus, has a longer wavelength) because the pulse deposited some of its energy in yon diamond (causing the creation of the phonon).

Which is all fine and dandy, but it doesn’t explain how they entangled diamonds, now does it?

Okay, so the researchers placed two of these little diamond wafers 15 millimeters apart. A laser pulse (bisected by a beam splitter) is sent through the two diamonds, with the exiting photons being funneled into a detector in order to determine the presence of a phonon. However, there’s no way of knowing exactly which diamond is vibrating.

In fact, in the screwed up language of quantum mechanics, that phonon is technically not confined to either diamond. Our little wafers are now entangled, sharing that phonon between them.

After testing the entanglement of the diamonds, the group was 98% certain entanglement had been achieved.

Of course, all is not perfect. Like so many entanglement experiments, this one was not without its limits. The entanglement can only last seven picoseconds (seven trillionths of a second). This is significantly shorter than previous entanglement experiments, but it’s certainly proof that it is possible to use macroscopic, room-temperature materials in quantum technologies. Perhaps it will nudge more scientists toward using said materials in their experiments.

“It can’t be that entanglement exists at the micro level (say of photons) but not at the macro level (say of diamonds),” Oxford and NUS physicist Vlatko Vedral said of the research. After all, these two worlds interact. I think this experiment is a great reminder to the scientific community to continue pushing the boundaries of quantum entanglement. The phenomenon has the potential to revolutionize computing and data transfer, thus why I keep such a close eye on it (that and I’m a bit of a romantic- and, let’s face it, entangled objects are like nerd romance Mecca).

For the record, when I first read about this, all I could think about was entangling two Emma Frosts…

Though I feel like calling her “Diamond Wafer” wouldn’t go over well. Never give an ex-villain a crappy pet name.

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