Researchers Demonstrate Coexistence of Quantum Mechanics and Thermodynamics Using Time Reversal Photonics Experiment

by Hiroshi Tanaka
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Quantum Paradox

A groundbreaking study conducted by a team of scientists from the University of Twente has effectively resolved the apparent paradox between quantum mechanics and thermodynamics. Through the utilization of an optical chip equipped with photon channels, the researchers demonstrated that these two theories can indeed coexist. While the individual channels exhibited disorder in accordance with thermodynamics, the overall system adhered to the principles of quantum mechanics, thanks to the entanglement of subsystems. This discovery provides compelling evidence that information can be both preserved and transferred within such systems.

The University of Twente researchers have now demonstrated that quantum mechanics and thermodynamics can simultaneously hold true by employing photons in an optical chip, as detailed in their recent publication.

Quantum mechanics dictates that time can be reversed, allowing for the preservation of information and the retrieval of previous particle states. However, reconciling this concept with the irreversible nature of thermodynamics has long posed a challenge. The latter implies a temporal directionality and the potential loss of information. To shed light on this dilemma, Jelmer Renema, one of the authors of the study, offers an analogy: “Just think of two photographs that you put in the sun for too long; after a while, you can no longer distinguish them.”

While a theoretical solution to this quantum puzzle had previously been proposed, along with an experiment involving atoms, the researchers at the University of Twente have now demonstrated its validity using photons. Renema explains the advantage of photons in this context, stating, “Photons have the advantage that it is quite easy to reverse time with them.” In their experiment, the scientists employed an optical chip containing channels through which the photons could pass. Initially, the number of photons in each channel was precisely determined. However, as the experiment progressed, the photons swapped positions.

The phenomenon of entanglement played a crucial role in the experiment. Renema elucidates, “When we looked at the individual channels, they obeyed the laws of thermodynamics and exhibited increasing disorder. Based on measurements of a single channel, we could not determine how many photons remained within that specific channel. Nevertheless, the overall system remained consistent with the principles of quantum mechanics.” The various channels, or subsystems, became entangled, allowing the missing information in one subsystem to be effectively transferred to another.

Dr. Jelmer Renema, an assistant professor in the Adaptive Quantum Optics research group at the University of Twente, led the study. He collaborated with a team that included researchers from the research group of Prof. Dr. Jens Eisert at the Freie Universität Berlin, who played a vital role in demonstrating the reversibility of the experiment. The team recently published their article titled “Quantum simulation of thermodynamics in an integrated quantum photonic processor” in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Communications.

Reference: “Quantum simulation of thermodynamics in an integrated quantum photonic processor” by F. H. B. Somhorst, R. van der Meer, M. Correa Anguita, R. Schadow, H. J. Snijders, M. de Goede, B. Kassenberg, P. Venderbosch, C. Taballione, J. P. Epping, H. H. van den Vlekkert, J. Timmerhuis, J. F. F. Bulmer, J. Lugani, I. A. Walmsley, P. W. H. Pinkse, J. Eisert, N. Walk and J. J. Renema, 1 July 2023, Nature Communications.
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-38413-9

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Quantum Paradox

Can quantum mechanics and thermodynamics coexist?

Yes, the research conducted by the University of Twente demonstrates that quantum mechanics and thermodynamics can indeed coexist. By utilizing an optical chip with photon channels, the experiment showed that while individual channels followed the principles of thermodynamics, the overall system complied with quantum mechanics due to subsystem entanglement.

How was the experiment conducted?

The researchers used an optical chip with photon channels. Initially, the number of photons in each channel was determined. As the experiment progressed, the photons shuffled positions. The entanglement of subsystems allowed for the preservation and transfer of information within the overall system.

What is the role of entanglement in the experiment?

Entanglement played a crucial role in the experiment. The various channels, or subsystems, became entangled, enabling the missing information in one subsystem to be transferred to another. This phenomenon allowed for the overall system to remain consistent with the principles of quantum mechanics.

What is the significance of this research?

This research resolves a long-standing paradox between quantum mechanics and thermodynamics. It demonstrates that information can be preserved and transferred within a system that simultaneously adheres to the principles of both quantum mechanics and thermodynamics. The findings contribute to our understanding of fundamental physics and the coexistence of these two important theories.

How does this experiment relate to previous studies?

While previous studies proposed theoretical solutions to the quantum paradox and conducted experiments with atoms, this research expands on those findings by successfully demonstrating the coexistence of quantum mechanics and thermodynamics using photons in an optical chip. The advantage of using photons is their ease of time reversal, which facilitated the experimental demonstration.

More about Quantum Paradox

  • University of Twente: Link
  • Nature Communications: Link
  • Quantum simulation of thermodynamics in an integrated quantum photonic processor: Link

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