By Loren Grush
If you talk to an artificial atom, it turns out the atom will say something back to you. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to hear it.
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have communicated with an artificial atom in a lab. When they fed their atom extremely high frequency sound energy, the atom regurgitated the energy back to them in the form of sound waves. The researchers were then able to record these auditory rumblings with high-tech audio equipment, as the sounds were too high to be heard by human ears.
This absorption/emission interaction is very similar to how atoms interact with light. When a photon of light gets close enough to an atom, sometimes the atom will gobble it up, absorbing the photon into its body. However, atoms aren’t very good at holding this energy for long, so they usually spit it back out in the form of a light particle.
This concept has been extensively studied in the field of quantum optics, but it’s the first time scientists have demonstrated such an interaction between artificial atoms and sound. Their study, published in the journal Science, provides researchers with a better understanding of the laws of quantum physics, which they hope to harness one day for making extremely fast computers.