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Symmetry controlled atomic switch to optimise solar panels

Posted: 12 Mar 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Quantum switch  power current  symmetry  solar panel 

In a collaborative work with the Singapore University of Technology and Design, University of Granada and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed a path for the creation of the first symmetry controlled current quantum switch.

The manufacturing of a symmetry controlled current quantum switch, which would allow for the control and modification of power currents at atomic level, is still a great challenge for the international scientific community. It could be used, for instance, to build controlled insulating materials, or to design more efficient solar panels (artificial photovoltaic cells) which can optimise the transport of energy and therefore, their efficiency, using symmetry as the basic tool.

This research team, whose work has been published in the prestigious journal Physical Review B of the American Physical Society, is currently working on a realistic design for a quantum switch with these features (i.e. symmetry controlled), based on cold atoms in coherent optical cavities, using microresonators attached to two baths to connect the system with thermic sources at different temperatures. The next step, they claim, is to actually create an experimental symmetry controlled quantum switch based upon this design.

In this research, scientists have described how symmetry, one of the most profound and powerful concepts in theoretical physics, enables the control and manipulation of energy transport in open quantum systems.


Researchers Pablo Ignacio Hurtado (University of Granada) and Daniel Manzano (MIT).

"An open quantum system is nothing but a bunch of atoms or molecules in interaction, subject to the action of an environment that constantly perturbs them. We can currently manipulate with extreme precision these systems, which are the building blocks of the quantum computers of the future," said Pablo Ignacio Hurtado Fernández, a professor at the Electromagnetism and Physics of Materials Department at the University of Granada. Fernández is the principal investigator in this project.

The magic of quantum systems lies in the fact that, in the presence of a symmetry, an open quantum system can simultaneously work in different stationary states. This research proves that this coexistence of different quantum states is due to the existence of a first order dynamic transition phase, similar to the transition from liquid water to vapour, where both phases (liquid and vapour) coexist simultaneously.

"But there's more: since quantum dynamics is temporarily reversible (i.e. it works in the same way whether it goes 'forwards' or 'backwards'), we have demonstrated that this transition phase is accompanied by its twin, but which manifests itself in very rare fluctuations of the energy current," Hurtado pointed out. Symmetry induced quantum coexistence allows for the robust storage of multiple coherent quantum states, which opens up many possibilities in quantum computing, according to Daniel Manzano, a researcher at the MIT and co-author of this work.

To conduct the simulations required by this study, researchers have employed the PROTEUS supercomputer, which belongs to the Carlos I Institute of Theoretical and Computational Physics at the University of Granada. PROTEUS is one of the most powerful supercomputers for scientific calculus in the country, with a calculus power of more than 13Tflops, which it can achieve thanks to its 1100 processing nuclei, 2.8 RAM Terabytes and 48TB for data storage.

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