The film of quantum waves
Observed and “filmed” for the first time in a direct way, the wavy nature of molecules of nitrogen in rotation. The technique opens up new possibilities for molecular manipulations on the border between reality and quantum classical reality. The results are published in the journal of Science Advances.
The cast is not exactly the ones from Hollywood production that is entirely made up of molecules of nitrogen. Moreover very cold: just 6 degrees above absolute zero. And even the script can be said that, seen that the above molecules they simply rotate on themselves. However, we guarantee that you will not run the risk of sliding sports: the film tells 0.013 billionths of a second of their existence. Played at a maddeningly slow motion (more than two thousand billion times), it is true. But the final result, the credits excluded, it is content: just 33 seconds. You think you can resist? So here it is, a world premiere:
This original film, which could easily be titled Quantum rotation: the movie (actually, the title chosen by “producers” is an austere the movie), is just out in the pages of Nature Advances. To achieve it, in the studios of Tokyo Tech and the Institute for Molecular Science in Okazaki, both in Japan, a team of physicists under the direction of Kenta Mizuse.
Credit: Mizuse et al. Sci. Adv. 2015;1:e1400185
What that shows, for the first time in the world, is the direct image, and high resolution, of wave packets rotational (rotational wave packets) in the direction controlled nitrogen molecules. It will not be easy, but nevertheless we try to understand a little ‘more. In quantum mechanics, a wave packet is the result of a sum of waves, and is used to represent a particle. Put simply, we can say that the particle is most likely to be where the amplitude of the wave packet is greater. The wave packets rotational represent the states of motion (speed and direction), variable in time, of objects in rotation. Microscopic objects: in our case, precisely, the molecules of nitrogen.
Check how? First, to align, the Mizuse and colleagues have struck with a pulse produced by a titanium sapphire laser at: event that happens in the video with the zero (634 femtoseconds after the start, when you see the green arrow appears vertical). Then, to make them rotate in the desired direction (counterclockwise), after other 4000 femtoseconds (green arrow inclined, to represent a polarization angle of 45 degrees) have the affected again.
The three images show the effects of these actions, in the course of time, on the probability of orientation of the molecules. Starting from the right, we have an animation in which the value of this probability is represented by the opacity of the diskettes. The centerpiece is the polar angle of the probability observed. It left the film itself: the direct image of the ions forming nitrogen molecules.
Image obtained certainly not with a film. To capture the orientation of the molecules, the researchers had to resort to the Coulomb explosion technique: using the same laser that has ionized atoms of nitrogen (that’s why the ions of the first), thus inducing rapid explosive phenomena that the experimental apparatus constructed ad hoc has been able to record. With a time resolution that even the most extreme of GoPro could ever dream of: in fact every frame lasts 33 femtoseconds, i.e. 33 millionths of a billionth of a second.
In short, it will not be at the level of a Kubrick film, but as an obsession with the technological challenges to the limit of the impossible comes close. All to see a few molecules rotate, you say? Well, actually what we can see is something more: what Japanese physicists immortalized is the wavy nature exhibited by these molecules in rotation, due to the fact the scale of the phenomenon is so small that behave according to the bizarre laws of quantum mechanics. Researchers are hoping that the technique is to open the doors to their proven potential for manipulation at the molecular level until now unexplored. To get, for example, to create real ultrafast molecular chronometers.