In a major scientific leap, researchers at the University of Queensland have created a quantum microscope that can detect biological structures that would otherwise be impossible to observe.
This paves the way for applications in biotechnology and can extend far beyond that in areas ranging from navigation to medical imaging.
The microscope is powered by the science of quantum entanglement, an effect that Einstein described as “ghostly interactions at a distance.”
Professor Warwick Bowen of UQ’s Quantum Optics Laboratory and the ARC Center for Excellence in Quantum Engineering Systems (EQUS) said it was the first entanglement-based sensor with performance above the best possible technology available.
“This breakthrough will trigger all sorts of new technologies, from better navigation systems to better MRI machines, as you say,” said Professor Bowen.
“Entanglement is believed to be at the heart of the quantum revolution. We have finally demonstrated that the sensors that use it can displace existing non-quantum technology.
“This is exciting – this is the first evidence of the paradigm-shifting potential of sensory entanglement.”
The Quantum Technologies roadmap in Australia shows that quantum sensors are driving a new wave of technological innovation in healthcare, engineering, transport and resources.
The main success of the team’s quantum microscope was its ability to eject over a “solid barrier” in traditional light-based microscopy.
Researchers from the UQ team (counterclockwise bottom left) Caxtere Casacio, Warwick Bowen, Lars Madsen and Waleed Muhammad align the quantum microscope.
“The best light microscopes use bright lasers that are billions of times brighter than the sun,” said Professor Bowen.
“Fragile biological systems as a human cell can only survive in them for a short time, and that is a major obstacle.
“Quantum entanglement in our microscope provides 35 percent improved clarity without destroying the cell, allowing us to see tiny biological structures that would otherwise be invisible.
The benefits are obvious, from a better understanding of living systems to improved diagnostic technologies.
Professor Bowen said there were potentially unlimited possibilities for quantum entanglement in technology.
“Entanglement will change the revolution in computing, communication and sensors,” he said. “Absolutely secure communication was demonstrated several decades ago as the first demonstration of an absolute quantum advantage over conventional technologies.
“Computing faster than any possible conventional computer was demonstrated by Google two years ago, as the first demonstration of an absolute advantage in calculations.
“The last piece in the puzzle was sensational and now we have filled that gap.
“This opens the door to some far-reaching technological revolutions.”
Reference: June 9, 2021, Nature.
DOI: 10.1038 / s41586-021-03528-w
The study was supported by the US Air Force Research Office and the Australian Research Council.