Verifying Heisenberg’s error-disturbance relation using a single trapped ion

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Science Advances  21 Oct 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 10, e1600578
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600578


Heisenberg’s uncertainty relations have played an essential role in quantum physics since its very beginning. The uncertainty relations in the modern quantum formalism have become a fundamental limitation on the joint measurements of general quantum mechanical observables, going much beyond the original discussion of the trade-off between knowing a particle’s position and momentum. Recently, the uncertainty relations have generated a considerable amount of lively debate as a result of the new inequalities proposed as extensions of the original uncertainty relations. We report an experimental test of one of the new Heisenberg’s uncertainty relations using a single 40Ca+ ion trapped in a harmonic potential. By performing unitary operations under carrier transitions, we verify the uncertainty relation proposed by Busch, Lahti, and Werner (BLW) based on a general error–trade-off relation for joint measurements on two compatible observables. The positive operator-valued measure, required by the compatible observables, is constructed by single-qubit operations, and the lower bound of the uncertainty, as observed, is satisfied in a state-independent manner. Our results provide the first evidence confirming the BLW-formulated uncertainty at a single-spin level and will stimulate broad interests in various fields associated with quantum mechanics.

  • Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle
  • quantum mechanics
  • compatible variables
  • trapped ion
  • POVM

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