Experimental violation of a Bell's inequality with efficient detection


Local realism is the idea that objects have definite properties whether or not they are measured, and that measurements of these properties are not affected by events taking place sufficiently far away1. Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen2 used these reasonable assumptions to conclude that quantum mechanics is incomplete. Starting in 1965, Bell and others constructed mathematical inequalities whereby experimental tests could distinguish between quantum mechanics and local realistic theories1,3,4,5. Many experiments1,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15 have since been done that are consistent with quantum mechanics and inconsistent with local realism. But these conclusions remain the subject of considerable interest and debate, and experiments are still being refined to overcome ‘loopholes’ that might allow a local realistic interpretation. Here we have measured correlations in the classical properties of massive entangled particles (9Be+ ions): these correlations violate a form of Bell's inequality. Our measured value of the appropriate Bell's ‘signal’ is 2.25 ± 0.03, whereas a value of 2 is the maximum allowed by local realistic theories of nature. In contrast to previous measurements with massive particles, this violation of Bell's inequality was obtained by use of a complete set of measurements. Moreover, the high detection efficiency of our apparatus eliminates the so-called ‘detection’ loophole.

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Figure 1: Illustration of how Bell's inequality experiments work.
Figure 2: Typical data histograms comprising the detection measurements of 20,000 experiments taking a total time of about 20 s.


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We thank A. Ben-Kish, J. Bollinger, J. Britton, N. Gisin, P. Knight, P. Kwiat and I. Percival for useful discussions and comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the Advanced Research and Development Activity (ARDA), the US Office of Naval Research, and the US Army Research Office. This paper is a contribution of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and is not subject to US copyright.

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Correspondence to M. A. Rowe.

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Rowe, M., Kielpinski, D., Meyer, V. et al. Experimental violation of a Bell's inequality with efficient detection. Nature 409, 791–794 (2001) doi:10.1038/35057215

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