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QPQV — Result In Brief

Project ID: 204059
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Sweden

Quantum vacuum can be studied with lasers

The positions and motions of quantum particles are only known in a statistical sense, in contrast to our classical world. EU researchers explored the interactions of high-intensity lasers with quantum matter.
Quantum vacuum can be studied with lasers
Knowing the exact position of a particle, for example makes its velocity completely undetermined. Lasers can focus high energies in tiny volumes, which makes them good probes of quantum effects.

The QPQV (Quantum plasmas and the quantum vacuum: New vistas in physics) project studied the interactions of high-intensity lasers with quantum matter and worked to develop models describing its collective motion.

The project has shown that the influence of the quantum vacuum, with its intrinsic fluctuations, can be detected using state-of-the-art high-power laser systems. In particular, the collision of light with light, forbidden in classical physics, is observable. The fascinating effect named after Unruh enables an observer under acceleration to measure a finite temperature although the temperature is zero in the non-accelerated system. This was also shown to be accessible using high-intensity lasers.

The quantum vacuum can be a source of matter and anti-matter, through a mechanism called the Schwinger process. Matter anti-matter pair production needs light intensities well above those available from conventional sources. The project investigated if it might be possible to produce pairs using laser fields, and found that the required intensity for pair production should be achievable using lasers.

Models were developed for describing the observed interactions to gain a deeper understanding of collective quantum systems. Numerical simulations techniques are being used to investigate the relativistic, quantum, and statistical effects in high-intensity laser light. Project outcomes could also be used to predict the limitations of next-generation laser systems in the near future.

Related information


Vacuum, quantum, laser, model, Unruh, anti-matter, Schwinger process
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