A note about quantum mechanics research

New University of Alberta physics professor Lindsay LeBlanc builds on a tradition of quantum physics experimentation.

Suzette Chan - 05 June 2014

(Edmonton) Last summer, University of Alberta engineering physics graduate Lindsay LeBlanc returned to the university as an assistant professor, after holding a postdoctoral fellowship at the Joint Quantum Institute (operated by the National Institute of Standards & Technology and the University of Maryland).

LeBlanc is building a lab to study quantum mechanical behaviour. The lab will include precision tools to manipulate and measure actual atoms at some of the lowest temperatures in the universe. This type of practical tabletop modelling is called quantum simulation. It's more concrete than pure computer simulations and much more compact than a full-scale particle collider.

Recently, a Finland-USA team used quantum simulation to create Dirac monopoles, which mimic the sought-after magnetic monopoles, in an artificial environment. The science journal Nature commissioned LeBlanc to write a note about the paper. She concluded that the team's result "reinforces the expectation that [the magnetic monopole] will be detected experimentally."

One experiment that could detect real magnetic monopoles is MoEDAL, which is co-led by University of Alberta professor James Pinfold, at CERN's massive Large Hadron Collider.

"He's looking for the actual monopole," LeBlanc says. "The team I wrote about explored how quantum mechanics tells us they should work. In these quantum simulation experiments, we use real quantum particles to stand in for other objects, but the same mechanical rules should apply."