Physicists have implemented the first experimental demonstration of everlasting quantum coherence—the phenomenon that occurs when a quantum system exists in a superposition of two or more states at once. Typically, quantum coherence lasts for only a fraction of a second before decoherence destroys the effect due to interactions between the quantum system and its surrounding environment.
The method presented in the new study does not attempt to slow down or correct decoherence, but instead it reveals a natural mechanism under which resilience to decoherence spontaneously emerges. The results show that, under certain conditions, quantum coherence remains completely unaffected by common mechanisms of decoherence that typically destroy coherence.
“The trick lies in the fact that local decoherence acts in a preferred direction, which is perpendicular to the one in which coherence is measured,” Adesso explained. “Consequently, the resulting quantum states are overall degraded by such noise, but their observed coherence remains unaffected during the dynamics if the initial conditions are suitably chosen.”
The researchers implemented the method using set-ups that involve room-temperature liquid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) quantum simulators, and demonstrated the effect in two- and four-qubit ensembles.
The researchers predict that the surprising effect can occur in larger systems composed of any even number of qubits. Odd-numbered qubit systems do not exhibit the resilience because the specific initial conditions supporting the phenomenon cannot be met due to the different geometry of quantum states in such instances
The ability to live in coherent superpositions is a signature trait of quantum systems and constitutes an irreplaceable resource for quantum-enhanced technologies. However, decoherence effects usually destroy quantum superpositions. It has been recently predicted that, in a composite quantum system exposed to dephasing noise, quantum coherence in a transversal reference basis can stay protected for indefinite time. This can occur for a class of quantum states independently of the measure used to quantify coherence, and requires no control on the system during the dynamics. Here, such an invariant coherence phenomenon is observed experimentally in two different setups based on nuclear magnetic resonance at room temperature, realizing an effective quantum simulator of two- and four-qubit spin systems. Our study further reveals a novel interplay between coherence and various forms of correlations, and highlights the natural resilience of quantum effects in complex systems.