• The researchers’ rendition of the famous Mona Lisa, approximately 100 microns wide. Photo credit: UQThe researchers’ rendition of the famous Mona Lisa, approximately 100 microns wide. Photo credit: UQ

UQ physicists create quantum Mona Lisa

Scientists in the UQ-based ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems have recreated the Mona Lisa, Van Gogh’s Starry Night and dozens of other images on a quantum ‘canvas’, that is no more than the width of a human hair.

The images were projected and photographed on a blob of gaseous quantum matter known as Bose-Einstein condensate. The resulting images are barely visible to the human eye, with each pixel representing only about 50 atoms.

The quantum artworks began as a side project to the departments main research topic, although the researchers believe that these initial images are a fanatastic demonstration of quantum matter as an new art material.

Dr Tyler Neely, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems explained: “We never aimed to do this – we were originally looking to better understand the unsolved mysteries of how fluids flow.

“We were hoping to gain new insights into how our everyday world arises out of the microscopic quantum world, helping us create new quantum-enhanced technologies.

“But, while we were at it, we just happened to create some of the world’s smallest masterpieces.”

Dr Neely and his team cooled a gas made of rubidium atoms down to a few billionths of a degree Celsius above absolute zero, which at minus 273.15 degrees Celcius is the coldest temperature possible. This gas behaves as a blob of gaseous quantum matter onto which the images were projected. The light from the project ‘stamps’ the image onto an area about 100 microns wide.

“Although these images are fascinating, extending the creative expression of this medium is the next step,” Dr Neely said.

“We’re now aiming to collaborate with an artist to help us realise a creative vision for this technology.”

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