Fundamental quantum optics experiments conceivable with satellites - reaching relativistic distances and velocities

David Rideout*, Thomas Jennewein, Giovanni Amelino-Camelia, Tommaso F. Demarie, Brendon L. Higgins, Achim Kempf, Adrian Kent, Raymond Laflamme, Xian Ma, Robert B. Mann, Eduardo Martín-Martínez, Nicolas C. Menicucci, John Moffat, Christoph Simon, Rafael Sorkin, Lee Smolin, Daniel R. Terno

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

99 Citations (Scopus)


Physical theories are developed to describe phenomena in particular regimes, and generally are valid only within a limited range of scales. For example, general relativity provides an effective description of the Universe at large length scales, and has been tested from the cosmic scale down to distances as small as 10m (Dimopoulos 2007 Phys. Rev. Lett. 98 111102; 2008 Phys. Rev. D 78 042003). In contrast, quantum theory provides an effective description of physics at small length scales. Direct tests of quantum theory have been performed at the smallest probeable scales at the Large Hadron Collider, 10 20 m, up to that of hundreds of kilometres (Ursin et al 2007 Nature Phys. 3 481-6). Yet, such tests fall short of the scales required to investigate potentially significant physics that arises at the intersection of quantum and relativistic regimes. We propose to push direct tests of quantum theory to larger and larger length scales, approaching that of the radius of curvature of spacetime, where we begin to probe the interaction between gravity and quantum phenomena. In particular, we review a wide variety of potential tests of fundamental physics that are conceivable with artificial satellites in Earth orbit and elsewhere in the solar system, and attempt to sketch the magnitudes of potentially observable effects. The tests have the potential to determine the applicability of quantum theory at larger length scales, eliminate various alternative physical theories, and place bounds on phenomenological models motivated by ideas about spacetime microstructure from quantum gravity. From a more pragmatic perspective, as quantum communication technologies such as quantum key distribution advance into space towards large distances, some of the fundamental physical effects discussed here may need to be taken into account to make such schemes viable.

Original languageEnglish
Article number224011
Pages (from-to)1-44
Number of pages44
JournalClassical and Quantum Gravity
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2012


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