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An Observer’s Guide to Quantum Dynamics, p. 7: The Quantum Century

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One of the quietest revolutions In our current century quantum mechanics has entered our everyday technology. Quantum effects were limited to physics laboratories and sophisticated experiments. But modern technology relies heavily on quantum mechanics for its basic function, and the importance of quantum effects will only grow in the coming decades. Therefore, physicist Miguel F. Below is the end of the series, but you can always find The opening story Than Landing page for the full series On the site.

The future is already here – it is not very evenly distributed –William Gibson

As instrument developers, it is only recently that quantum mechanics has been able to be used. Understanding and manipulating quantum devices is like getting a drug — there are so many things we can create now that would have been impossible a few years ago.

We have encountered some of these quantum technologies in previous articles. Some of them, like the quantum dots on TVs, are already becoming commonplace; There are others like optical watches, but they are still rare.

Because this is the last article This series, I want to see a future where quantum technologies can stimulate our everyday existence. One does not have to look too far into all the technologies we are exploring today already. Most of them are still rare, isolated in labs or technical demonstrators. Others are hiding at a local hospital with a clear view, such as an MRI machine or a hard drive sitting at your desk. In this article, we will focus on some of the technologies we have not encountered in previous articles: superconductivity, particle polarization and quantum electronics.

When looking at these quantum technologies, imagine what it would be like to live in a world where quantum devices are everywhere. What does it mean to be technically literate when quantum mechanics is a prerequisite for understanding everyday technology?

So pick your telescope and look at the quantum technologies coming up on the next ridge.

Super conductors

On a normal running wire, you can connect a battery and measure how fast the electrons move through it (current, or number and speed of electrons). It takes some pressure (voltage) to push the electrons, and that impulse releases some heat a Think of the red glow of the coils on a room heater or hair dryer. Difficulty in pushing electrons through an object Resistance.

But we know that electrons move in waves. As you cool all the atoms in an object, the magnitude of the electron waves carrying electricity increases. If the temperature drops enough, this wave can go from an annoying nuance to the defining nature of electrons. Suddenly electron waves move effortlessly through the material together – the resistance drops to zero.

The oscillation temperature of electrons depends on the crystal where the electrons are, but it is always cold, including the temperature at which gases such as nitrogen or helium turn into liquids. Despite the challenge of keeping things this cool, superconductivity is an amazing and useful asset that we use anyway.

Electromagnets. Superconductivity is widely used for electromagnets in MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machines. As a child, you may have created an electromagnet by wrapping a wire around a nail and attaching the pole to a battery. Similar to the magnet in an MRI machine, in which it is a large wire rod. But when you have a current of 1000 amps flowing through the wire, the magnet works The price is high. It usually ends up being the world’s largest space heater.

So the answer is to cool it in liquid helium using a special wire. Once it is superconducting, you can plug it in as a power source and increase the current (this takes 2-3 days a big thing Video inserting MRI magnet). You let go of the magnet Go away. Since there is no resistance, the current will continue to flow until you keep the magnet cool. When a hospital installs a new MRI, once the magnet is installed it will be operated and then disassembled and left for the rest of its life.

A superconducting magnet used for particle detection.
Zoom in / A superconducting magnet used for particle detection.

Although MRI machines are the most visible examples, superconducting magnets are actually the most common. Any good chemical laboratory or field will have many superconducting magnets in their atomic magnetic resonance (NMR) machines and mass spectrometers. Superconducting magnets 18 km away from the Large Hadron collision and they are shown in other ways in the fields of physics. When we had the shoestring project, we wiped and renewed a superconducting magnet from the storage alley behind my lab. Physicists have sent glossy lists by superconducting magnetic manufacturers.

Transfer lines. The next obvious use is to stretch out a superconducting wire and use it to carry electricity. There are many demonstration programs around the world that use superconducting electrical connections. As with most industrial applications, the performance of a superconductor is a matter of finding events worth its high price. As prices fall and we add more renewable solar and wind energy to the phase, long-distance superconducting transmission lines may become important The fact that power can be transmitted over long distances without loss can even expel local variations in renewable power generation.

Generators and motors. If you have incredibly strong superconducting magnets, you may want to use them in electric generators and motors. Cooling, as always, is a problem, but very strong magnets can make motors / generators significantly smaller and more efficient. It is particularly attractive for wind turbines (reduced weight of the tower), and electric drives for boats and aircraft (reduced weight and improved performance).