This has never happened before. Physicists have now been able to take a photo of a strong form of quantum entanglement called Bell entanglement. They have captured visual evidence of an elusive phenomenon which a baffled Albert Einstein once called “spooky action at a distance.”
Two particles interacting with each other, like two photons passing through a beam splitter, will sometimes remain connected and instantaneously share their physical states no matter how great the distance which separates them. This connection is known as quantum entanglement, and it underpins the field of quantum mechanics.
Einstein considered quantum mechanics as “spooky” because of the instantaneousness of the apparent remote interaction between two entangled particles. He thought it seemed incompatible with elements of his special theory of relativity.
Later, Sir John Bell formalized this concept of nonlocal interaction describing a strong form of entanglement exhibiting this spookiness.
Currently Bell entanglement is being harnessed in practical applications like quantum computing and cryptography, but it has never been captured in a single image.
In a paper published this weekend in the journal Science Advances, a team of physicists from the University of Glasgow describe how they have made Einstein’s spookiness visible in an image for the first time.
They devised a system which fires a stream of entangled photons from a quantum source of light at “non-conventional objects” – displayed on liquid-crystals materials which change the phase of the photons as they pass through.
Then they used a super-sensitive camera capable of detecting single photons which would only take an image when it caught sight of both one photon and its entangled ‘twin’, creating a visible record of the entanglement of the photons.
Dr. Paul-Antoine Moreau of the University of Glasgow’s School of Physics and Astronomy is the paper’s lead author. Dr. Moreau said: “The image we’ve managed to capture is an elegant demonstration of a fundamental property of nature, seen for the very first time in the form of an image.
“It’s an exciting result which could be used to advance the emerging field of quantum computing and lead to new types of imaging.”