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Entangled mechanical oscillators

Abstract

Hallmarks of quantum mechanics include superposition and entanglement. In the context of large complex systems, these features should lead to situations as envisaged in the ‘Schrödinger’s cat’1 thought experiment (where the cat exists in a superposition of alive and dead states entangled with a radioactive nucleus). Such situations are not observed in nature. This may be simply due to our inability to sufficiently isolate the system of interest from the surrounding environment2,3—a technical limitation. Another possibility is some as-yet-undiscovered mechanism that prevents the formation of macroscopic entangled states4. Such a limitation might depend on the number of elementary constituents in the system5 or on the types of degrees of freedom that are entangled. Tests of the latter possibility have been made with photons, atoms and condensed matter devices6,7. One system ubiquitous to nature where entanglement has not been previously demonstrated consists of distinct mechanical oscillators. Here we demonstrate deterministic entanglement of separated mechanical oscillators, consisting of the vibrational states of two pairs of atomic ions held in different locations. We also demonstrate entanglement of the internal states of an atomic ion with a distant mechanical oscillator. These results show quantum entanglement in a degree of freedom that pervades the classical world. Such experiments may lead to the generation of entangled states of larger-scale mechanical oscillators8,9,10, and offer possibilities for testing non-locality with mesoscopic systems11. In addition, the control developed here is an important ingredient for scaling-up quantum information processing with trapped atomic ions12,13,14.

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Figure 1: Mechanical oscillators.
Figure 2: Creation of entangled mechanical oscillators.
Figure 3: Entanglement demonstration through parity oscillation.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by IARPA and the NIST Quantum Information Program. We thank J. Britton, Y. Colombe and H. Uys for comments on the manuscript. J.P.H. acknowledges support from the Lindemann Trust fellowship. This paper is a contribution by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and not subject to US copyright.

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Correspondence to J. D. Jost.

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Jost, J., Home, J., Amini, J. et al. Entangled mechanical oscillators. Nature 459, 683–685 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature08006

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