Artificial atom probes sound’s quantum side

illustration of setup to make sound go quantum

In this illustration, which is not to scale, an artificial atom (right) generates sound waves as ripples on a solid surface. Interlaced metal fingers acting as a "microphone" (left) pick up the sound, which is composed of quantum particles.

Philip Krantz, Krantz NanoArt

Sound is taking on some of light’s leading role in the quantum realm. Scientists have designed an artificial atom to emit sound that is divided into quantum particles. These quantum particles are the weakest sound that can be detected. Because sound travels at roughly a hundred-thousandth the speed of light, sound’s much slower-moving quantum particles should be easier to manipulate, giving scientists more control over the quantum world, the researchers argue September 11 in Science.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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