Tunneling between a Tremble and a Swing
New research from Canada and Germany is challenging the notion that
quantum mechanics is the science of the small and the static. Research
published in the Physical Review Letters suggests that quantum
tunneling, one of several phenomena associated exclusively with the
quantum level, may also occur with larger and dynamic systems.
In quantum physics, quantum tunneling draws on micro and nanoscopic
phenomenon in order to allow a particle to pass through a barrier that
is too high to overcome by classical physical events. It has been widely
assumed that the larger a macroscopic system becomes, the less likely it
is for the quantum physics effects, such as tunneling, to occur.
New results from Ioana Serban, of the University of Munich, and Frank
Wilhelm, of the University of Waterloo, suggest that quantum tunneling
may be more common than expected and can occur in macroscopic quantum
mechanical systems. They suggest that tunneling can occur not only
between two places, but between two patterns of motion. In particular,
it may be possible for a nanomechanical clapper to generate both a
pendulum swing and a tiny tremor at the same time. The discovery will
advance the development of detectors to be used in quantum computing.