Two interesting articles on microsonic adventures in science:
“Researchers at Columbia University and Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology say that they have, for the first time, “captured” the sound a single atom makes when it moves around—a single “phonon,” as it were. It’s an achievement that could eventually be used as the basic science for new quantum computing devices.”
Quantum information can be stored in micromechanical resonators, encoded as quanta of vibration known as phonons. The vibrational motion is then restricted to the stationary eigenmodes of the resonator, which thus serves as local storage for phonons. In contrast, we couple propagating phonons to an artificial atom in the quantum regime and reproduce findings from quantum optics with sound taking over the role of light. Our results highlight the similarities between phonons and photons but also point to new opportunities arising from the unique features of quantum mechanical sound. The low propagation speed of phonons should enable new dynamic schemes for processing quantum information, and the short wavelength allows regimes of atomic physics to be explored that cannot be reached in photonic systems.
For researcher David Watts, the idea of listening to organic molecules had been ‘languishing in a notebook’ since he first visualised compounds as tiny stringed instruments. As each molecule has a vibrational signature, it should be possible to convert them to characteristic musical tones. David realised that data from Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) should provide all the necessary information, ‘the frequency and amplitude of absorption in the bonds’, albeit in the wrong format for direct conversion to sound. He designed a second step to create audible sound waves from those vibrations. ‘If an inverse Fourier transform is performed then the FTIR spectrum can be converted into the time/amplitude domain and the vibrations of the molecules heard.’