Scientists have managed to tie a quantum knot for the very first time – a huge breakthrough in quantum physics that could help power the ultra-fast computers of the future.
Physicists have investigated the possibility of tying knots in quantum fields for decades, but until now nobody had been able to do it.
Teams from Finland’s Aalto University and the Massachusetts-based Amherst College created the knot with a quantum gas called Bose-Eisenstein Condensate (BEC), a substance that only exists at near absolute zero temperatures.
To create the knots, the clever scientists applied a magnetic field to the BEC in order to create a quantum field cloud aligned in one direction.
The magnetic field was then rapidly switched to point to a central point in the cloud.
This caused the quantum field to tie itself into what is called a ‘Hopf’ knot in less than a thousandth of a second.
“After we learned how to tie the first quantum knot, we have become rather good at it. Thus far, we have tied several hundred such knots”, said Professor David Hall of Amherst College.
The knots are only possible in the mind-boggling world of quantum physics, where particles can be in two places at once.
The ground-breaking research could help in the development of futuristic supercomputers that would be able to solve problems far more quickly than traditional computers.
Many government and security agencies are currently researching quantum computing, largely because of the possibility of heightened encryption of sensitive national security information.
The research was published in Nature Physics.
Image credit: David Hall