Browse Definitions:
Definition

quantum interference

Quantum interference is one of the most challenging principles of quantum theory. Essentially, the concept states that elementary particles can not only be in more than one place at any given time (through superposition), but that an individual particle, such as a photon (light particles) can cross its own trajectory and interfere with the direction of its path. 

Debate over whether light is essentially particles or waves dates back over three hundred years. In the seventeenth century, Isaac Newton proclaimed that light consisted of a stream of particles; in the early nineteenth century, Thomas Young devised the double-slit experiment to prove that it consisted of waves. Although the implications of Young's experiment are difficult to accept, it has reliably yielded proof of quantum interference through repeated trials. The noted physicist Richard Feynman claimed that the essentials of quantum mechanics could be grasped from an exploration of the double slit experiment.

For this variation of Young's experiment, a beam of light is aimed at a barrier with two vertical slits. The light passes through the slits and the resulting pattern is recorded on a photographic plate. If one slit is covered, the pattern is what would be expected: a single line of light, aligned with whichever slit is open. Intuitively, one would expect that if both slits are open, the pattern of light will reflect that fact: two lines of light, aligned with the slits. In fact, however, what happens is that the photographic plate is entirely separated into multiple lines of lightness and darkness in varying degrees. What is being illustrated by this result is that interference is taking place between the waves/particles going through the slits, in what, seemingly, should be two non-crossing trajectories.

We would expect that if the beam of photons is slowed enough to ensure that individual photons are hitting the plate, there could be no interference and the pattern of light would be two lines of light, aligned with the slits. In fact, however, the resulting pattern still indicates interference, which means that, somehow, the single particles are interfering with themselves. This seems impossible: we expect that a single photon will go through one slit or the other, and will end up in one of two possible light line areas. But that is not what happens. As Feynman concluded, each photon not only goes through both slits, but simultaneously traverses every possible trajectory en route to the target -- not just in theory, but in fact.

In order to see how this might possibly occur, experiments have focused on tracking the paths of individual photons. What happens in this case is that the measurement in some way disrupts the photons' trajectories (in accordance with quantum theory's uncertainty principle), and somehow, the results of the experiment become what would be predicted by classical physics: two bright lines on the photographic plate, aligned with the slits in the barrier. Cease the attempt to measure, however, and the pattern will again become multiple lines in varying degrees of lightness and darkness.

Quantum interference research is being applied in a growing number of applications, such as the superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID), quantum cryptography, and quantum computing.

This was last updated in March 2011

Continue Reading About quantum interference

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

Powered by:

SearchCompliance

  • PCAOB (Public Company Accounting Oversight Board)

    The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) is a Congressionally-established nonprofit that assesses audits of public ...

  • cyborg anthropologist

    A cyborg anthropologist is an individual who studies the interaction between humans and technology, observing how technology can ...

  • RegTech

    RegTech, or regulatory technology, is a term used to describe technology that is used to help streamline the process of ...

SearchSecurity

  • email spam

    Email spam, or junk email, is unsolicited bulk messages sent through email with commercial, fraudulent or malicious intent.

  • distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack

    A distributed denial-of-service attack occurs when an attack originates from multiple computers or devices, usually from multiple...

  • application whitelisting

    Application whitelisting is the practice of identifying applications that have been deemed safe for execution and restricting all...

SearchHealthIT

  • athenahealth Inc.

    Based in Watertown, Mass., athenahealth Inc. is a leading vendor of cloud-based EHRs for small to medium-sized physician ...

  • Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare)

    The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is legislation passed in 2010 that changed how uninsured Americans enroll in and receive healthcare...

  • HIPAA Privacy Rule

    The Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information, commonly known as the HIPAA Privacy Rule, establishes ...

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS)

    One approach to a strong disaster recovery plan is DRaaS, where companies offload data replication and restoration ...

  • data recovery

    Data recovery restores data that has been lost, accidentally deleted, corrupted or made inaccessible. Learn how data recovery ...

  • disaster recovery plan (DRP)

    A company's disaster recovery policy is enhanced with a documented DR plan that formulates strategies, and outlines preparation ...

SearchStorage

  • virtual memory

    Virtual memory is a memory management capability of an OS that allows a computer to compensate for physical memory shortages by ...

  • yottabyte (YB)

    A yottabyte is a measure of theoretical storage capacity and is 2 to the 80th power bytes, or, in decimal, approximately 1,000 ...

  • Kilo, mega, giga, tera, peta, exa, zetta and all that

    Kilo, mega, giga, tera, peta, exa, zetta are among the list of prefixes used to denote the quantity of something, such as a byte ...

SearchSolidStateStorage

  • PCIe SSD (PCIe solid-state drive)

    A PCIe SSD (PCIe solid-state drive) is a high-speed expansion card that attaches a computer to its peripherals.

  • SSD caching

    SSD caching, also known as flash caching, is the temporary storage of data on NAND flash memory chips in a solid-state drive so ...

  • NVDIMM (Non-Volatile Dual In-line Memory Module)

    An NVDIMM (non-volatile dual in-line memory module) is hybrid computer memory that retains data during a service outage.

SearchCloudStorage

  • RESTful API

    A RESTful application program interface breaks down a transaction to create a series of small modules, each of which addresses an...

  • cloud storage infrastructure

    Cloud storage infrastructure is the hardware and software framework that supports the computing requirements of a private or ...

  • Zadara VPSA and ZIOS

    Zadara Storage provides block, file or object storage with varying levels of compute and capacity through its ZIOS and VPSA ...

Close