May 20, 2024

The Secret Code of the Universe: A Remarkable Way of Measuring the Fine Structure Constant

A light (left) sends a beam through a special product, which changes the instructions of polarization– by an angle that is provided by the fine structure constant. Credit: Tatiana Lysenko/ TU Wien
The great structure constant is a fundamental constant of nature and its measurement is essential in physics. Just recently, scientists at TU Wien have found a distinct method of determining it.
The value of one over 137, likewise referred to as the fine structure constant, is thought about an important number in physics. It plays a substantial role in atomic and particle physics.
While typically the great structure constant is measured indirectly through estimations and measurements of other physical quantities, researchers at TU Wien have actually established an experiment that allows for the direct measurement of the great structure constant in the type of an angle.
1/137– the secret code of deep space
The great structure constant describes the strength of the electro-magnetic interaction. It shows how strongly charged particles such as electrons respond to electro-magnetic fields. If the fine structure constant had a different worth, our universe would look entirely various– atoms would have a different size, so all chemistry would work in a different way, and nuclear combination in the stars would be totally different also.

A much-discussed question is whether the great structure constant is in fact consistent, or whether it might potentially have changed its worth a little over billions of years.
Direct measurements rather of computations
” Most important physical constants have a particular unit– for instance, the speed of light, which can be given up the system of meters per second,” states Professor Andrei Pimenov from the Institute of Solid State Physics at TU Wien. “Its various with the fine structure constant. It has no system, it is simply a number– it is dimensionless.”
Typically, when the great structure is measured, various quantities with various physical units have to be determined, and then the worth of the great structure constant is inferred from these results. “In our experiment, on the other hand, the great structure continuous itself ends up being directly noticeable,” states Andrei Pimenov.
A thin movie that rotates the light
A laser beam is polarized linearly– the light oscillates precisely in the vertical instructions. Then the beam hits a layer of an unique product that is just a couple of nanometers thick. This material has the residential or commercial property of changing the polarization instructions of the light.
” A product rotating the polarization of a laser beam is, by itself, absolutely nothing uncommon. Different products can do this; the thicker the material layer, the more the polarization of the laser is rotated.
When passing through the thin film, the polarization instructions of the light carries out a quantum dive. After travelling through, the light wave oscillates in a different direction than previously. And when the size of this jump is computed, an impressive result appears: the quantum of this angular change is precisely the fine structure constant.
” We thus have direct access to something quite uncommon: a quantum of rotation,” states Andrei Pimenov. “The great structure continuous becomes immediately visible as an angle.”
Reference: “Universal rotation gauge via quantum anomalous Hall effect” by Alexey Shuvaev, Lei Pan, Lixuan Tai, Peng Zhang, Kang L. Wang and Andrei Pimenov, 7 November 2022, Applied Physics Letters.DOI: 10.1063/ 5.0105159.

” Most essential physical constants have a particular unit– for example, the speed of light, which can be given in the system of meters per second,” says Professor Andrei Pimenov from the Institute of Solid State Physics at TU Wien. “Its different with the fine structure constant. And when the size of this dive is determined, an astonishing result appears: the quantum of this angular change is exactly the great structure constant.

The fine structure consistent explains the strength of the electro-magnetic interaction. If the fine structure constant had a different value, our universe would look totally various– atoms would have a different size, so all chemistry would work in a different way, and nuclear blend in the stars would be entirely different.