Small Particles Lead to Big Discoveries
The discovery of quantum mechanics in the early 20th century changed our understanding of the physical world, and sparked the development of many new technologies. Today, quantum mechanics is behind many of the technologies powering modern life—from transistors that enable complex calculations in the stock market to digital image-capture technologies in cameras.
Dr. Lindsay LeBlanc, Canada Research Chair in Ultracold Gases for Quantum Simulation, is fascinated by the complexity of quantum mechanics: predicting how so many particles will act together is difficult or impossible for even the most advanced computers.
Like people grouped together in communities, when quantum particles are close to each other, they show traits differing from their usual, individual ones—a phenomenon scientists call “many-body” behaviour. Once understood, these behaviours can be applied in practical scientific advances, such as exponentially more powerful quantum computers.
LeBlanc and her research team use laser-cooled quantum gases to better examine what sets off many-body behaviour. By cooling the atoms, they can slow their movement and cause them to overlap slightly, setting off the many-body behaviour for observation.
LeBlanc’s research could be used to design and manufacture the next generation of devices that use many-body behaviour.