Quantum entanglement is a peculiar phenomenon that Albert Einstein had once dismissed as nothing but a “spooky action at a distance.” While this odd connection between two separate objects has been seen by scientists in electrons and other particles, two new studies suggest that the phenomenon can also be seen in extremely small objects that are still visible to the naked eye.
As explained by Science magazine, quantum entanglement is what happens when an object changes properties, followed by a second, ostensibly unrelated object also changing its properties, even if it’s located light-years away from the first object. Despite Einstein’s well-documented “spooky action” skepticism, this phenomenon has been witnessed several times in recent decades. However, these observations had only involved tiny particles, which prompted the question of whether such entanglements could be spotted in larger objects.
In a pair of separate studies, researchers sought to “scale up” quantum entanglement, using specially crafted objects that Science described as being “barely visible” to the naked eye. The first study, which was published in the journal Nature, was led by Delft University of Technology (Netherlands) physicist Simon Groblacher, whose team etched two bacterium-sized beams into silicon chips, then connected the chips with an optical fiber and stifled vibrations by cooling the etched chips at temperatures near absolute zero.
After conducting experiments, where the beams were stimulated with controlled laser pulses, it was found that the boost of energy was present in both beams, lasting for only a split second, but nonetheless suggesting that quantum entanglement was indeed present in the “scaled up” setup.
Meanwhile, a team of researchers from Finland’s Aalto University created a pair of vibrating aluminum drum heads about as wide as a single human hair, and also etching them onto a silicon chip and cooling the setup to reduce vibrations. The researchers, who were led by physicist Mika Sillanpaa, then boosted the drum heads with microwaves, observing that one of the tiny objects moved up and down, with the other one moving in the opposite direction. Using a second microwave boost, the Finnish researchers determined that quantum entanglement did take place in the two drum heads.
According to Sillanpaa, the entanglement he and his colleagues observed could also be indefinite, provided that the objects remain exposed to microwave pulses. Like the first study, his team’s research was also documented earlier this week in Nature.
While the two teams of researchers used different methodologies in their quantum entanglement studies, New Atlas wrote that the papers could have interesting implications going forward, such as helping scientists edit the properties of similarly tiny objects, and eventually create more advanced routers and sensors. Likewise, Science opined that the discovery could be helpful in the creation of a “hack-proof quantum internet” at some point in the future.