Letters to Nature

Nature 406, 43-46 (6 July 2000) | doi:10.1038/35017505; Received 12 April 2000; Accepted 8 June 2000

Quantum superposition of distinct macroscopic states

Jonathan R. Friedman, Vijay Patel, W. Chen, S. K. Tolpygo & J. E. Lukens

  1. Department of Physics and Astronomy, The State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York 11794-3800, USA

Correspondence to: Jonathan R. Friedman Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to J.R.F. (e-mail: Email: jonathan.friedman@sunysb.edu).

In 1935, Schrödinger1 attempted to demonstrate the limitations of quantum mechanics using a thought experiment in which a cat is put in a quantum superposition of alive and dead states. The idea remained an academic curiosity until the 1980s when it was proposed2, 3, 4 that, under suitable conditions, a macroscopic object with many microscopic degrees of freedom could behave quantum mechanically, provided that it was sufficiently decoupled from its environment. Although much progress has been made in demonstrating the macroscopic quantum behaviour of various systems such as superconductors5, 6, 7, 8, 9, nanoscale magnets10, 11, 12, laser-cooled trapped ions13, photons in a microwave cavity14 and C60 molecules15, there has been no experimental demonstration of a quantum superposition of truly macroscopically distinct states. Here we present experimental evidence that a superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) can be put into a superposition of two magnetic-flux states: one corresponding to a few microamperes of current flowing clockwise, the other corresponding to the same amount of current flowing anticlockwise.