How quantum optics sheds light on the nature of the quark

Schematic representation of a holonomy.

Scientists from the University of Rostock have succeeded in simulating fundamental physical properties from the field of elementary particle physics in a photonic system. The results will be published in natural physics.

Experimental physicists routinely use huge but complicated machines in their basic research: particle accelerators of enormous size smash microscopic particles at almost the speed of light, releasing unimaginable amounts of energy. In the remnants of these collisions, scientists are looking for signatures of the fundamental forces of the universe.

Since the 1970s, a veritable zoo of particles has been discovered and incorporated into the Standard Model of particle physics. These include quarks, the elementary building blocks of protons and neutrons. These unusual particles obey their own rather idiosyncratic properties that set them apart from any other form of matter. For example, while there is only one type of electrical charge, which can be positive or negative, the behavior of quarks is subject to completely different physical laws.

Prof. Stefan Scheel, head of the research group Quantum Optics of Macroscopic Systems at the University of Rostock explains: “In addition to their electrical charge, quarks also have their own color charge: red, green or blue. has nothing to do with the colors of a rainbow.”

Because of this peculiar behavior, individual quarks stubbornly elude any direct observation. Recently, the group of German scientists managed to study the fundamental symmetries of quarks by preparing light in an analogous configuration.

Prof. Alexander Szameit, head of the Experimental Solid State Optics research group at the University of Rostock, describes the experimental approach: “We use high-intensity laser pulses to inscribe circuits for light in a modest piece of glass. Complex phenomena can be modeled in such photonic chips. The color charge of quarks is just one of them.”

In order to simulate this charging, the Rostock scientists had to make use of the exotic properties of quantum light. Light particles (so-called photons) can not only exist in several places at the same time, but also any number in exactly the same place.

“In this way, so-called holonomies can be designed as photons propagate through the photonic circuits. These abstract objects are usually the playing field of mathematicians. But as it turns out, they also describe the possible symmetries of a quantum system and have some very interesting properties, for example they are independent of the time that elapses, a rarity in physics,” says Vera Neef, one of the lead authors of work when her Ph.D. revolves around the new field of holonomic quantum optics.

The second lead author, Julien Pinske, in his Ph.D. examines holonomies from the point of view of theoretical physics and states: “In order to simulate the three different color charges, it was necessary to design a three-dimensional holonomy. So far, only photons are sufficient, and that goes beyond our everyday view of nature.”

With a view to the first experimental realization of this effect, the group of scientists expects deeper insights into the fascinating physics of the quark. Beyond studying this fundamental physics, the reported results could prove useful in the design of future quantum technologies, including quantum computers. There, holonomies could prove to be the crucial ingredient on which to make quanta resilient enough for commercial use.

More information:
Stefan Scheel, Three-dimensional non-abelian quantum holonomy, natural physics (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41567-022-01807-5.

Provided by the University of Rostock

Citation: Particle Physics in a Humble Glass Chip: How Quantum Optics Illuminates the Nature of the Quark (2022, December 1), retrieved December 1, 2022 from -chip.html

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