Toward quantum superposition of living organisms

Oriol Romero-Isart*, Mathieu L. Juan, Romain Quidant, J. Ignacio Cirac

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    363 Citations (Scopus)


    The most striking feature of quantum mechanics is the existence of superposition states, where an object appears to be in different situations at the same time. The existence of such states has been previously tested with small objects, such as atoms, ions, electrons and photons (Zoller et al 2005 Eur. Phys. J. D 36 203-28), and even with molecules (Arndt et al 1999 Nature 401 680-2). More recently, it has been shown that it is possible to create superpositions of collections of photons (Deléglise et al 2008 Nature 455 510-14), atoms (Hammerer et al 2008 arXiv:0807.3358) or Cooper pairs (Friedman et al 2000 Nature 406 43-6). Very recent progress in optomechanical systems may soon allow us to create superpositions of even larger objects, such as micro-sized mirrors or cantilevers (Marshall et al 2003 Phys. Rev. Lett. 91 130401; Kippenberg and Váhala 2008 Science 321 1172-6; Marquardt and Girvin 2009 Physics 2 40; Favero and Karrai 2009 Nature Photon. 3 201-5), and thus to test quantum mechanical phenomena at larger scales. Here we propose a method to cool down and create quantum superpositions of the motion of subwavelength, arbitrarily shaped dielectric objects trapped inside a high-finesse cavity at a very low pressure. Our method is ideally suited for the smallest living organisms, such as viruses, which survive under low-vacuum pressures (Rothschild and Mancinelli 2001 Nature 406 1092-101) and optically behave as dielectric objects (Ashkin and Dziedzic 1987 Science 235 1517-20). This opens up the possibility of testing the quantum nature of living organisms by creating quantum superposition states in very much the same spirit as the original Schrödinger's cat 'gedanken' paradigm (Schrödinger 1935 Naturwissenschaften 23 807-12, 823-8, 844-9). We anticipate that our paper will be a starting point for experimentally addressing fundamental questions, such as the role of life and consciousness in quantum mechanics.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number033015
    JournalNew Journal of Physics
    Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2010


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