Seeing Another World

ArtistStylized Impact
ScientistPrithvi Reddy
Scientist PositionPhD Candidate, Research School of Physics & Engineering, ANU

Seeing Another World

Quantum mechanics is a description of all matter and light in full detail. It provides a precise description of everything from subatomic particles to everyday chemicals. While it underpins all of nature, quantum behaviour is only directly observable in systems smaller than atoms. In addition, the rules governing the world on an atomic scale appear completely divorced from our everyday experience.
In my research group we exploit the peculiarities of the quantum world to design new technologies. Primarily, the devices I work are based upon the properties of atom sized, florescent, defects in crystals — like diamond or silicon. Shining a laser of the right frequency (e.g green) onto the defect results in the emission of light (red glow). This carries information of the defects quantum state. Through this mechanism we can detect the interaction between the defect its environment, and thereby develop nano-scale sensors.
Indeed, the inspiration for this co-lab is one of our most promising projects: the worlds first Quantum Microscope. This device will provide us with the first direct glimpse of the quantum world of individual molecules and atoms. The quantum microscope operates by sensing the effect, on a defect in diamond, of the minuscule electric fields generated by molecules. This information can be used to reconstruct the chemical composition of the molecule. The development of this technology will have profound implications in both chemistry and biology, enabling imaging of an otherwise inaccessible world.