Quantum batteries can charge faster by scrambling the rules of cause and effect

Quantum batteries of the future could get a charge by breaking the usual laws of causation, research shows.

Conventional batteries charge by converting electrical energy into chemical energy at the rate of a large number of electrons.

But in a new proof-of-principle experiment, researchers have shown how a strange quantum effect could lead to batteries that are faster and more efficient by scrambling. and impact, according to research in the December 14 journal Physical Review Letters.

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Causation, or the relationship between cause and effect, is not always straightforward quantum mechanicsthe strange rules that govern the world of the very small.

“Usually, if event A precedes and causes event B, it is assumed that B cannot cause A at the same time,” co-first author Yuanbo Chen, a physicist at the University of Tokyo, told Live Science. “However, recent advances in theoretical physics suggest that in some frameworks, scenarios where ‘A causes B’ and ‘B causes A’ can be simultaneously true.”

The principle of quantum superposition enables particles to exist in many different states at once, at least until they are observed and “choose” a state to go to.

Any property of a quantum object (such as momentum, location, or, in the popular case of Erwin Schrodinger’s hypothetical cat, whether it is alive or not) can exist in superposition a probabilistic compilation of every possible state that only collapses into a definite result when the object is viewed.

This realization led physicists to conduct all kinds of strange experiments that contrary to our intuitive ideas of what is possibleincluding those in which a particle can exist and not exist in many different places at the same time.

But superposition doesn’t just mess with our intuitive sense of space, it also scrambles our sense of causality. In 2009, physicists used a device called a quantum switch to observe a phenomenon called indefinite causal order. By sending a light particle, or photon, down a pair of diverging paths, physicists cause it to split into two possible versions of itself—the one that fell down the first path, and the another in the second.

Then, depending on the path taken by the photon, physicists use two different processes in different order depending on the path. The result is a photon with its causality jumbled: it is in a quantum superposition where both sequences of events are true.

“Say we have two processes: A and B,” Chen said. “With a quantum switch, you can create a superposition of (First apply A and then B) and (First apply B and then A).”

Chen and his colleagues wondered if they could incorporate it into a quantum battery, a proposed device that could theoretically store the energy of photons and charge faster than conventional electrochemical batteries. .

They compared three charging methods: connecting two chargers to a battery in sequence, simultaneously, or in a superposition that makes it impossible to tell the order of the input.

Their calculations show that the superposition method enables a low-power, causally-scrambled charger to deliver more energy more efficiently than a conventional high-power charger.


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They followed their calculations with an experimental proof of principle using light. By sending photons through a quantum switch with two possible paths, the researchers split the light particles into two possible versions of themselves, each traversing the other. road.

Then, after subjecting the light to two inputs that polarize them in a different order (A then B or B then A) based on the path they take, the researchers measure the polarization at the end and found that individual photons are cause scrambled.

After testing their protocol, the scientists say their next challenge is to create a physical quantum battery that can hold a charge. However, the first experimental evidence for a quantum battery was published only last year, so it won’t happen anytime soon.

“Due to the current situation characterized by limited experimental efforts and ongoing theoretical exploration in the field of quantum batteries, it is difficult to estimate a precise timeline for reaching conclusive results,” said Chen.

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