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Pushing the boundaries of quantum experiments, theorists have proposed devices that combine mechanical vibration, single photons, and a single atom. Now a team reports in Physical Review Letters that they have completely solved the quantum mechanical equations for such a system and have shown that it could lead to a wide range of quantum explorations. For example, the mechanical motion could be reduced to the level of a single phonon, the quantum unit of vibrations, and it would be capable of emitting single phonons into its support structure. One of the authors is already working on building the device, which the team believes could lead to studies of the behavior of quantum phenomena at macroscopic scales.

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