Classification of macroscopic quantum effects

01 July 2014


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The authors review canonical experiments on systems that have pushed the boundary between the quantum and classical worlds towards much larger scales, and discuss their unique features that enable quantum coherence to survive. Because the types of systems differ so widely, they use a case by case approach to identifying the different parameters and criteria that capture their behaviour in a quantum mechanical framework. They categorise systems into three broad classes defined by mass, spatio-temporal coherence, and number of particles. The classes are not mutually exclusive and in fact the properties of some systems fit into several classes. They discuss experiments by turn, starting with interference of massive objects like macromolecules and micro-mechanical resonators, followed by self-interference of single particles in complex molecules, before examining the striking advances made with superconducting qubits. Finally, they propose a theoretical basis for quantifying the macroscopic features of a system to lay the ground for a more systematic comparison of the quantum properties in disparate systems.