Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Realization of a Quantum Random Walk With Ultracold Atoms



D Ciampini, M B. d'Arcy, J M. Grossman, Kristian Helmerson, Paul D. Lett, William D. Phillips, A Vaziri, S L. Rolston


Classical random walks have many applications in computer science. Quantum random walks (QRWs) [1] have been suggested as the potential basis for quantum computing algorithms. Such algorithms have been reported, some of which offer an exponential speed-up over the best classical algorithms [2,3]. Studying QRWs experimentally, therefore, can give insight that may aid in systematically developing quantum computing algorithms with practical applications.We implement a discrete quantum random walk of atoms on a line. The classical random walk analog of this QRW is Galton s pegboard, also known as the quincunx [4]. In the classical version, a particle begins at the origin of a one-dimensional lattice. At each time step the particle has equal probability of moving one lattice site to the left or right. After N steps the probability distribution of the particle s location is given by a binomial distribution, which approaches a Gaussian in the limit of many steps.In the classical random walk on a line, the standard deviation of the probability distribution grows as the square root of N. For the quantum random walk, however, the probability distribution spreads linearly with the number of steps. Classically, in the limit of large N the probability distribution falls off exponentially away from the mean position, while in the quantum case the probability away from the maximum is only suppressed as 1/N. These differences account for the computing speed-up of algorithms using quantum random walks [2,3].Our implementation of the quantum random walk on a line uses atoms diffracted from a sodium Bose-Einstein condensate. We release the condensate from a magnetic trap and allow it to expand to reduce the mean-field interactions. We then apply pulsed counterpropagating beams at regular time intervals. These pulses satisfy the conditions for p/2-Bragg pulses, coupling atoms between zero-recoil and two-recoil momentum states, with each pulse leaving each atom in an equal superposition of these two momentum states [5]. Between pulses the atoms evolve so that the populations in the two momentum states separate by about one cloud diameter. The final population distribution after many pulses differs dramatically from the classical analog, providing another clear demonstration of the dichotomy between quantum and classical dynamics.These QRW experiments also facilitate the investigation of the effect of decoherence, which would tend to produce the classical distribution. Dephasing, which mimics decoherence, is introduced by a random change in the phase of the light potential applied in each pulse. Mean-field interactions can also reduce the quantum signatures of the probability distribution.
Proceedings Title
Sigma Xi Postdoctorial Poster Presentations, 2004
Conference Dates
February 19-20, 2004


atoms, quantum, random, realization, ultracold


Ciampini, D. , d'Arcy, M. , Grossman, J. , Helmerson, K. , Lett, P. , Phillips, W. , Vaziri, A. and Rolston, S. (2004), Realization of a Quantum Random Walk With Ultracold Atoms, Sigma Xi Postdoctorial Poster Presentations, 2004 (Accessed April 25, 2024)
Created February 1, 2004, Updated February 17, 2017