It may seem like an unusual question, but have you ever considered what an atom might sound like? Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have, and they recently became the first to capture an atom's tune, reports

The breakthrough gives scientists new ways of communicating with and controlling atoms, which is a pivotal advancement in the field of quantum computing

"We have opened a new door into the quantum world by talking and listening to atoms," said Per Delsing, head of the research group. "Our long-term goal is to harness quantum physics so that we can benefit from its laws, for example in extremely fast computers. We do this by making electrical circuits which obey quantum laws, that we can control and study."

Researchers have thoroughly studied the interactions between atoms and light waves, but achieving a stable interaction between atoms and sound waves has proven more challenging because sound moves much slower and is, in a sense, more cumbersome than light. But a slower speed than light has been sought after because it would allow researchers more time to control the quantum particles while they travel. So the acoustic atom, now achieved, opens whole new doors for research.

For the study, a 4.8 gigahertz frequency, which is close to the microwave frequencies common in modern wireless networks, was used to communicate with an artificial atom. The artificial atom is an example of a quantum electrical circuit, which can be charged up with energy just like a regular atom and made to emit the energy in the form of a particle. 

The acoustic atom was able to absorb and emit energy in the form of sound. The tune it played, according to scientists, was a D-note-- approximately a D28, actually, which is about 20 octaves above the highest note on a grand piano.

"According to the theory, the sound from the atom is divided into quantum particles," said Martin Gustafsson, the article's first author. "Such a particle is the weakest sound that can be detected."

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Bryan Nelson ( @@brynelson ) writes about everything from environmental problems here on Earth to big questions in space.

What does an atom sound like? Apparently, a D-note
Scientists have captured the sound of an atom for the first time, and it could lead to breakthroughs in quantum computing.