The Light-Matter Interactions Unit
The Superposition of an Atom
Under quantum conditions a single atom can be in two places at once, i.e. in superposition with itself. These images show the superposition of an atom from two different perspectives. The red smears (right image) or peaks (left image) indicate that there is a 100% probability an atom is present in that position at the given time. The two blue peaks at the front of the left image or smears at the back of the right image indicate a single atom is 50% present in one position and 50% in another position at the same given time. These graphs are visual translations of equations in quantum theory. Images created by Thomas Fogarty, a graduate student from University College Cork in Ireland currently working in the Quantum Systems Unit.
Quantum Cherry Blossom Tree
Chlorophyll pigment molecules pass energy from a photon until it reaches a special molecule of chlorophyll -- the reaction center. Photosynthesis' efficiency may be due to the photon energy's simultaneous exploration of every possible chlorophyll route to the reaction center, whereby it chooses the shortest path -- a phenomenon only possible under quantum conditions. After the photon reaches the reaction center molecule, it loses an electron to an electron acceptor molecule. The replacement of this lost electron causes a chain reaction that leads to the production of sugar, a plant's sustenance, and the release of oxygen. Drawing by Vanessa Schipani