Monday, November 11, 2013

Real World Applications of Quantum Physics Is NOT That Unusual!

This news article is publicizing an upcoming seminar by Nobel Laureate Serge Haroche. The topic will be quantum physics and its application. However, the way the news is presented, it sounds as if applications of quantum physics is few and far in between, and many are yet to come.

In a talk open to the general public, Prof Haroche will speak about how research in quantum physics will open the way to new technologies that can exploit the strange logic of the quantum world to build more powerful and faster computers, create better satellite-based navigation or more sensitive systems for predicting earthquakes.
The real-world applications of quantum physics can be seen today in lasers, energy harvesters which convert heat into electricity, ultra-precise clocks for calculating trajectories of spacecraft and unbreakable cryptography.

That list of "real-world applications" that are in used today are too exotic! It makes it sound as if QM's applications are not as prevalent, when they are! All of our modern electronics are based on QM. Your iPad, iPhone, medical devices and diagnostics, etc... anything that makes use of microelectronics are essentially applications of QM.

Quantum mechanics: We're Everywhere!



Steve W said...

Besides devices, the understanding of all chemical bonding and reactivity is rooted in quantum mechanical ideas. The geometries of molecules, which are really important for e.g. catalysts and pharmaceuticals, depends entirely on the shapes of quantum mechanical electronic wavefunctions (orbitals).

Also, the vast majority of spectroscopy requires at least rudimentary QM to understand. Although the reference is becoming increasingly outdated, I always tell our first year chemistry students if they want to see QM in action, they should watch the show CSI. The fact that spectral lines are discrete (indicating excitations are quantized) is really the basis for most spectroscopies being useful. If everything gave broad absorptions across the whole spectrum, you really couldn't identify anything.

But anyway, I guess I don't have to tell you that. Just wish more people realized.

ZapperZ said...

A very good point. Thank you.


Hamish J said...

I agree that QM has been part and parcel of everyday technologies for decades. However, until recently QM has mostly been seen through the fug of statistical mechanics -- it's hard to marvel at the wonders of the Fermi-Dirac distribution that brings us the transistor, for example. What's new is that single-particle QM is harnessing weird stuff such as superposition and entanglement, which until the 1990s were seen as a curious sideshow with few practical applications.