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Scientists Achieve Double-Slit Experiment at Fermi Scale

The researchers used an unstable particle ρ0 meson as the entity in a collision process

by University of Science and Technology of China
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In collaboration with Brookhaven National Laboratory, USA, and Shandong University, the STAR group of the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has achieved the first Fermi-scale single-particle double-slit experiment with an unstable particle ρ0 meson as the entity in a high-energy heavy-ion collision process. The study was published in Science Advances.

Wave-particle duality is a cornerstone principle of quantum mechanics. The single-particle double-slit experiment is a direct phenomenological interpretation of wave-particle duality. Over the past 50 years, researchers have repeatedly carried out the experiment using photons, electrons, atoms, molecules, and biological macromolecules as interfering entities. Could the unstable particles commonly found in high-energy nuclear physics experiments also act as entities in a double-slit experiment?

Researchers answered the question by utilizing gold nucleus-gold nucleus collisions. Both colliding nuclei could act as target nuclei, i.e., the "slits," for ρ0 meson scattering, resulting in interference. The process produced ρ0 mesons that were fully linearly polarized, and their decay products tended to move in the polarization direction, which resulted in a second-order cosine modulation of the decay angle that varied periodically with the magnitude of the ρ0 meson transverse momentum, the first manifestation of the double-slit interference phenomenon in polarization space.

Interestingly, the typical distance between the two slits in these collisions was about 20 fm, much greater than the distance that can be reached before the ρ0 mesons decay, suggesting that the ρ0 meson wave functions from the two slits decayed before they met and overlapped, so that the ρ0 meson double-slit interference is produced by the concerted cooperation of its decay products (e.g., π+π- pairs). These decaying π+π- pairs interfere in a "supertemporal" cooperative manner, providing an excellent model for interpreting the phenomenon of quantum entanglement.

- This press release was provided by the University of Science and Technology of China