Humans love art. From frescos in the Sistine Chapel to doodles on notepads, we are constantly letting out our artistic side. And now art can enter a new frontier, the quantum world. Researchers have developed a way to “paint” tiny masterpieces on a special state of matter called a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC).
The BEC happens when a diluted gas of certain particles, in this case, rubidium atoms, are cooled down to a few billionths of a degree above absolute zero. Under these conditions, where most atoms are in their lowest possible state, microscopic quantum phenomena suddenly become macroscopic.
And on this quantum blob of matter researchers were able to project an image using a laser to create a “light stamp”. They were able to create micro-copies of paintings such as the Mona Lisa and Starry Night by van Gogh. They also had a go at making their own photos into tiny portraits.
“We never aimed to do this – we were originally looking to better understand the unsolved mysteries of how fluids flow,” Dr Tyler Neely, from the University of Queensland, said in a statement.
“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.”
These pieces of art are tiny but not atom-sized. They are roughly 100 microns across, which is more or less the width of a human hair. The “paintings” are in black and white, but they can be digitally colorized in a way similar to how we colorize old photos. Multiple images representing reds, blues, and greens can be created and then merged with computer software.
The team plans to reproduce more famous works of art and photographs on the quantum canvas. They believe this is a great example of a new way to make art, and they’d like to recruit people to take this new art medium beyond the mere reproduction of other pieces of art.
“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.”