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A quantum theory first proposed nearly 90 years ago has at last been confirmed, potentially galvanising new approaches in fields as diverse as medical biosensing and solar energy storage.

University of Sydney researchers David McKenzie and Enyi Guo report in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society that they have successfully demonstrated quantum tunnelling in water – a phenomenon first predicted by British theoretical physicist Ronald Gurney in 1931.

Quantum tunnelling is one of the weirder products of quantum mechanics, and relies on the wave-particle duality of subatomic particles.

The theory describes how in certain circumstances a particle will defeat the constraints of classical physics when confronted by a barrier. Classical equations will show that the particle does not have enough energy to physically overcome the obstacle, but wave-particle duality allows it to tunnel straight through it.

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Category: Science