Major Scientific Leap: Quantum Microscope Created That Can See the Impossible

Quantum Microscope Artist's Impression

Artist’s impression of UQ’s new quantum microscope in action. Credit: The University of Queensland

In a major scientific leap, University of Queensland researchers have created a quantum microscope that can reveal biological structures that would otherwise be impossible to see.

This paves the way for applications in biotechnology, and could extend far beyond this into areas ranging from navigation to medical imaging.

The microscope is powered by the science of quantum entanglement, an effect Einstein described as “spooky interactions at a distance.”

UQ’s quantum microscope, ready to zero in on previously impossible-to-see biology. Credit: The University of Queensland

Professor Warwick Bowen, from UQ’s Quantum Optics Lab and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS), said it was the first entanglement-based sensor with performance beyond the best possible existing technology.

“This breakthrough will spark all sorts of new technologies — from better navigation systems to better MRI machines, you name it,” Professor Bowen said.

“Entanglement is thought to lie at the heart of a quantum revolution. We’ve finally demonstrated that sensors that use it can supersede existing, non-quantum technology.

“This is exciting — it’s the first proof of the paradigm-changing potential of entanglement for sensing.”

Australia’s Quantum Technologies Roadmap sees quantum sensors spurring a new wave of technological innovation in healthcare, engineering, transport and resources.

A major success of the team’s quantum microscope was its ability to catapult over a ‘hard barrier’ in traditional light-based microscopy.

“The best light microscopes use bright lasers that are billions of times brighter than the sun,” Professor Bowen said.

“Fragile biological systems like a human cell can only survive a short time in them and this is a major roadblock.

“The quantum entanglement in our microscope provides 35 percent improved clarity without destroying the cell, allowing us to see minute biological structures that would otherwise be invisible.

“The benefits are obvious — from a better understanding of living systems, to improved diagnostic technologies.”

UQ team researchers (counter-clockwise from bottom-left) Caxtere Casacio, Warwick Bowen, Lars Madsen and Waleed Muhammad aligning the quantum microscope. Credit: The University of Queensland

Professor Bowen said there were potentially boundless opportunities for quantum entanglement in technology.

“Entanglement is set to revolutionize computing, communication, and sensing,” he said. “Absolutely secure communication was demonstrated some decades ago as the first demonstration of absolute quantum advantage over conventional technologies.

“Computing faster than any possible conventional computer was demonstrated by Google two years ago, as the first demonstration of absolute advantage in computing.

“The last piece in the puzzle was sensing, and we’ve now closed that gap.

“This opens the door for some wide-ranging technological revolutions.”

Reference: “Quantum-enhanced nonlinear microscopy” by Catxere A. Casacio, Lars S. Madsen, Alex Terrasson, Muhammad Waleed, Kai Barnscheidt, Boris Hage, Michael A. Taylor and Warwick P. Bowen9 June 2021, Nature.
DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03528-w

The research was supported by the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Australian Research Council.


View Comments

  • So when you re-printed that press release did you not see that you'd need a quantum microscope to spot any hard information in all the information-free puff?

    • Let's not be too hard on them. They did provide an "Artist’s impression of UQ’s new quantum microscope in action." What more do you want? An explanation of how it works?

  • With not a word to the workings of it, one can only wonder how it works. But at least we got a reference for further reading. Thanks.

  • I read this twice just to make sure I did not overlook the information entangled in it. And there twerent none.

  • They went with "Major Scientific Leap: Quantum Microscope," when they could have easily put in a Quantum Leap reference.

  • Once again, in an effort to smite our fellow man (US Air Force Research Funding) we develop technologies that alleviate suffering and advance human knowledge.

  • Laughing humans of earth,quantum mechanics and 🔬🔭 education!!!! who will be piloting✈🛰🛩🛸🛫

  • Hey! Where's the Chinese in the picture? Somebody has to funnel the research details to Beijing.

  • They use entanglement to tag the photons as they go out, then read the tags when the photons are detected, thus giving them the ability to precisely calculate the image and eliminate stray photons causing noise.
    Instead of having to use more photons, which irradiates living tissue, they can get a significantly clearer image using fewer photons (less intense light).
    It's published in Nature

    • I've read the publicly available abstract. There are a lot of claims, but nothing I can see that substantiates the claims. It appears to be hand waving. I'm not about to pay $200 to find out that there is no more substance to the actual article than there is in the abstract.

    • Well said. One search engine term "Caxtere Casacio" gets you to the original. If her name had been Jane Smith it might have been different.

    • Nope, this is the end of the road. Sensing was the final piece of the puzzle. They've done it now.

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