Physicists Use Quantum Mechanics to Pull Energy out of Nothing
Date: Thursday, February 23, 2023 @ 11:20:36 GMT
Topic: Science

Via Physicists Use Quantum Mechanics to Pull Energy out of Nothing by Charlie Wood

The quantum energy teleportation protocol was proposed in 2008 and largely ignored. Now two independent experiments have shown that it works.

The new quantum protocol effectively borrows energy from a distant location and thus violates no sacred physical principles. Kristina Armitage/Quanta Magazine

For their latest magic trick, physicists have done the quantum equivalent of conjuring energy out of thin air. It’s a feat that seems to fly in the face of physical law and common sense.

“You can’t extract energy directly from the vacuum because there’s nothing there to give,” said William Unruh, a theoretical physicist at the University of British Columbia, describing the standard way of thinking.

But 15 years ago, Masahiro Hotta, a theoretical physicist at Tohoku University in Japan, proposed that perhaps the vacuum could, in fact, be coaxed into giving something up.

At first, many researchers ignored this work, suspicious that pulling energy from the vacuum was implausible, at best. Those who took a closer look, however, realized that Hotta was suggesting a subtly different quantum stunt. The energy wasn’t free; it had to be unlocked using knowledge purchased with energy in a far-off location. From this perspective, Hotta’s procedure looked less like creation and more like teleportation of energy from one place to another — a strange but less offensive idea.

“That was a real surprise,” said Unruh, who has collaborated with Hotta but has not been involved in energy teleportation research. “It’s a really neat result that he discovered.”

Now in the past year, researchers have teleported energy across microscopic distances in two separate quantum devices, vindicating Hotta’s theory. The research leaves little room for doubt that energy teleportation is a genuine quantum phenomenon.

“This really does test it,” said Seth Lloyd, a quantum physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was not involved in the research. “You are actually teleporting. You are extracting energy.”

Quantum Credit

The first skeptic of quantum energy teleportation was Hotta himself.

In 2008, he was searching for a way of measuring the strength of a peculiar quantum mechanical link known as entanglement, where two or more objects share a unified quantum state that makes them behave in related ways even when separated by vast distances. A defining feature of entanglement is that you must create it in one fell swoop. You can’t engineer the related behavior by messing around with one object and the other independently, even if you call up a friend at the other location and tell them what you did...

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