Quantum Mechanics in everyday life :
The mention of the phrase ‘Quantum Physics’, immediately invokes a response of something quite weird and incomprehensible that happens in very special conditions in nature, and perhaps companies like Google, IBM and Microsoft are competing in a race to develop Quantum Computing, which will also be of use to a few specialist “ Quantum Physicists or Quantum Engineers”.
If someone were to ask us the daily life or real-life examples of Quantum Physics, most of us would be totally unaware of it. But once you get to know about the real-life applications of Quantum Physics, you might wonder that the examples of the same were right in front of you!
It may surprise you to know that Quantum Mechanics is able to explain our senses of sight, touch and smell.
A number of such examples are described by Chad Orzel in a book with a catchy title “ Breakfast with Einstein”. Beginning with describing in the introduction a typical morning routine—waking up, making breakfast, checking his computer—Orzel breaks those actions down in order to “show how an ordinary weekday routine depends on some of the weirdest phenomena ever discovered.” For example, his alarm clock allows him to discuss, cogently, how the “modern accounting of time” that the device embodies is “deeply rooted in the quantum physics of atoms.” Orzel provides similar explanation for such phenomena as the different colors of light emitted by objects heated to different temperatures, using as an entry point the glowing coils of the burner on his stove top.
Here is a list of a number of things which depend upon Quantum Physics for their operation.
The bread toast which you enjoy while sipping on your morning tea is able to make its way to your plate only because of Quantum Physics. The heating element of the toaster glows red to toast a slice of bread. Toasters are generally referred to as the reason why Quantum Physics came into existence. The rod in the toaster gets hot, which, in turn, is responsible for toasting the bread.
2: Fluorescent light :
The light which you are getting from the tubes or those curly bulbs is a result of a quantum phenomenon only. In fluorescent lighting, a small amount of mercury vapour is excited into the plasma. Mercury has the ability to emit light in the visible range. So, the next time you switch on the lights of your room at night, make sure you thank Quantum Physics.
3. Computer & Mobile Phone
The whole computer world is based on the principle of Quantum Physics. Quantum Physics talks about the wave nature of electrons, and, so, this forms the basis of the band structure of solid objects on which semiconductor-based electronics are built. Not to forget that we are able to manipulate the electrical properties of silicon only because we can study the wave nature of electrons. Once the band structure is changed, the conductivity alters as well. How can the band structure be changed? Of course, Quantum Physics knows the answer!
4. Biological Compass
If you think that only the humankind has been lucky enough to make use of Quantum Physics, you are totally wrong! According to theories by scientists, birds like European Robin make use of Quantum Physics to migrate. A light-sensitive protein called cryptochrome contains electrons. Photons, after entering the eyes of the bird, hit cryptochrome, and radicals are released. These radicals enable the bird to “see” a magnetic map. Another theory suggests that the beaks of the birds contain magnetic minerals. Crustaceans, lizards, insects, and even some mammals make use of such type of magnetic compass. You might be surprised to know the type of cryptochrome which is used for navigation by flies has also been found in the human eye! However, its use is unclear.
Transistors have widespread uses and are used to amplify or switch electrical signals and electrical power. Looking closely at the structure of transistors, we would realize that a transistor consists of layers of silicon associated with other elements. Computer chips are made by millions of these, and these computer chips form the powerhouse of all the technological gadgets which have become central to human existence. Had Quantum Physics not come into play, these chips would not have been created and neither would desktops, tablets, laptops, smartphones, and other gadgets have found their way into human life.
The principle on which laser works is based on Quantum Physics. The working of lasers involves spontaneous emission, thermal emission, and fluorescence. An electron, when excited, will jump to a high-energy level. However, it will not stay in the high-energy level for a long time, and jump back to the lower energy state which is more stable; and, thereby, emit light. The quantum mechanical state of the atom is also affected by external photons which are at a frequency associated with the atomic transition.
Electron microscopy has improved with underlying principles of Quantum Physics. Quantum Physics in association and electron microscopy have improved the imaging of biological samples. Moreover, in differential interference contrast microscopy, a pattern of interference is created by the beam of photons, which is then analysed. All-in-one, with Quantum Physics, microscopy has improved to a great extent, and, therefore, a large amount of information from a sample can be obtained.
8. Global Positioning System (GPS)
Navigating to unknown locations has never been easier as it has been with the aid of Quantum Physics. While using a mobile phone for navigation, the GPS receiver in the phone is responsible for picking up the signal from multiple clocks. The distance and time between your current location and the destination are calculated by calculating different arrival times from different satellites. Moreover, even the distance from your current location from each satellite is also calculated. Each satellite is equipped with an atomic clock, which relies on Quantum Physics only.
9. Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Magnetic Resonance Imaging, also known as Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, involves the reversal of the spins of the electrons in hydrogen nuclei. So, basically, we are talking of shift in energies; which is nothing but one of the applications of Quantum Physics. The study of soft tissues can easily be carried out with the use of MRI. Thanks to Quantum Physics that the diagnosis and treatment of some life-threatening ailments have been possible.
Communication has been made extremely easy because of the important role of Quantum Physics. Fibre optic telecommunication has made possible two-way and quick communication. The fibre optic telecommunication is possible only because of lasers, which are devices of Quantum Physics.
Here are two resources for further exploration of this greatest human endeavour ever:
A link to an article with 10 examples : https://studiousguy.com/examples-quantum-physics-everyday-life/
Breakfast with Einstein: the exotic Physics of everyday objects by Chad Orzel
This erudite book will be best read in multiple sittings by curious readers keen on absorbing all the weird science on display all around them.