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Up until now, physicists only observed this quantum state on nanogram-scale objects that contain millions of atoms. But recently, physics experts from MIT have frozen a human-scale object near standstill. The recent experiment has been inspired by earlier studies on super-cooling objects, transitioning their consisting atoms at a near standstill, also known as emotional ground state.


Motional Ground State on Larger Objects Now Possible

Inspecting LIGO's optics for contaminants
(Photo: Matt Heintze / Caltech / MIT / LIGO Lab)

After decades of quantum studies in smaller objects, researchers have finally achieved an emotional ground state using larger, human-scale objects. The said object, however, isn't tangible and is not placed in one location. It is a combination of four different materials that total 40 kilograms, with 10 kilograms of mass, and contains almost 1 octillion atoms.

Physics experts from MIT utilized the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory or LIGO to determine the motion of masses with high accuracy. LIGO was also effective to freeze the overall mass of the object to 77 nanokelvins which were significantly different compared to the estimated ground state of 10 nanokelvins, reports PhysOrg.

The results of the study published in Science entitled "Approaching the motional ground state of a 10-kg object" showed that the first-ever motional ground state experiment would be a gateway to more studies using larger objects. The material used to observe the relation of gravity and quantum objects is by far the largest object cooled to date.

According to MIT's mechanical engineering assistant professor and project director Vivishek Sudhir, no established research has yet to prove the gravitational reaction on massive quantum states. But with the observation using kilogram-scale objects, experts will start to finally understand how gravity affects large quantum objects, he added.

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How Physicists Achieved Motional Ground State of a Larger Scale Object Using LIGO

The experiment took advantage of the motion present in all objects. These motions are a product of the volume of atoms and their corresponding interactions with each other and external factors. The motions exhibited by the object will then manifest through its own temperature. Once the temperature drops to zero, the object will have a residual quantum motion, also known as a motional ground state.

Several processes have been tried to cool objects and obtain a motional ground state. These include laser light to bring the atoms and ultralight objects to the level of quantum ground states. This process was also conducted in the recent experiment to be able for experts to super-cool larger objects and study quantum reactions on bigger systems.

The accuracy of the motion's measurement is strictly needed before freezing the atoms in the large objects and transitioning into the near ground state. The precision of the said measurement is required to know when to stop the motion. LIGO, the instrument used for the experiment, is one of the only few technologies that can conduct the quantum experiment procedures stated.

Researchers have applied both equal and opposite forces to the electromagnet-equipped LIGO mirrors. The effect was stunning, as it pulled the collective motion of the object to a near standstill. It left the mirrors with almost no energy to move, measured less than one-thousandth size of a single proton.

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