Twin lasers improve precision measurement

Friday, 25 July, 2008


New laser technology that could dramatically improve precision measurement ranging from atomic to outer-space applications has been developed by physicists at The Australian National University.

The twin laser technology will extend the capabilities of high-precision laser pointers in the measurement and alignment of very small nano-components right through to very distant objects, such as satellites. The findings are published in the latest edition of Science.

Single laser pointers can be found inside many of the most sensitive microscopes, where they are able to probe individual atoms and living organisms, explains researcher leader Professor Hans Bachor. He says there is always some fundamental uncertainty to what scientists can know.

“For a single laser beam we can’t say with ultimate precision where it is and where it is heading at the same time,” he said. “Twin laser pointers enable us to say precisely where the single laser beam is or where it is heading, once we have seen the other beam. This sounds simple, but it is actually an important and difficult test of quantum physics.

“Einstein and his colleagues explored these limits in their debates in the 1930s and thought about twin beams, and the link between them was called entanglement. Only in more recent times have we been able to test it with real machines. This was done for individual photons in the 1980s by the French physicist Professor Alain Aspect and we have now extended this to the position and direction of laser beams.

“While each individual beam has a degree of uncertainty, using beams together will provide us with very accurate measurements,” he added.

The new technology will be able to be used and applied across a range of other scientific disciplines, including areas such as quantum cryptography and data storage.

The twin laser technology was developed by physicists from ANU and Laboratoire Kastler Brossel in Paris in the laboratories of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum-Atom Optics at ANU.

 

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