IBM research scientists appear to be about as busy as the WestJet corporate communications and video crew! (See last post.)
For the first time, IBM scientists have demonstrated a complex quantum mechanical phenomenon known as Bose-Einstein condensation, using a luminescent polymer (plastic) similar to the materials in light emitting displays used in many of today's smartphones.
Now, before you go all GoldieBlox on me, allow me to elaborate.
This discovery has several potential applications in developing novel optoelectronic devices, including energy-efficient lasers and ultra-fast optical switches -- critical components for powering future computer systems to process massive big data workloads.
In other words, for me to ever fully evolve into Borg-dom, we're going to need these types of advances.
And there are economic issues in play: The use of a polymer material and the observation of BEC at room temperature provides substantial advantages in terms of applicability and cost.
IBM scientists around the world are focused on an ambitious data centric exascale computing program, which is aimed at developing systems that can process massive data workloads fifty times faster than today.
Such a system will need optical interconnects capable of high-speed processing of petabytes to exabytes of big data. This will enable high-performance analytics for energy grids, life sciences, financial modelling, business intelligence, and weather and climate forecasting.
The complex phenomenon IBM scientists demonstrated at room temperature is named after the renown scientists Satyendranath Bose and Albert Einstein who first predicted it in the mid-1920s, and which was only later experimentally proven in 1995.
A Bose-Einstein Condensate is a peculiar state of matter which occurs when a dilute gas of particles (bosons) are cooled to nearly absolute zero (-273 Celsius, -459 Fahrenheit). At this temperature intriguing macroscopic quantum phenomena occur in which the bosons all line up like ballroom dancers.
In 1995 this was demonstrated for the first time at these extreme temperatures, but today in a paper appearing in Nature Materials, IBM scientists have achieved the same state at room temperature using a thin non-crystalline polymer film developed by chemists at the University of Wuppertal in Germany.
The next step for scientists is to study and control the extraordinary properties of the Bose-Einstein Condensate and to evaluate possible applications including analog quantum simulations. Such simulations could be used to model very complex scientific phenomena such as superconductivity, which is difficult using today's computational approaches.
The research was funded under the European Union's FP7 Project named ICARUS. The goal of ICARUS is to create and characterize new hybrid-semiconductor systems and then implement them in photonic and optoelectronic devices.
This research was conducted in the Binnig and Rohrer Nanotechnology Center at IBM Research – Zurich, and you can learn more about the work here.