The Weak equivalence principle (WEP) is a key aspect of classical physics. It states that when particles are in freefall, the trajectories they follow are entirely independent of their masses. However, it is not yet clear whether this property also applies within the more complex field of quantum mechanics. In new research published in EPJ C, James Quach at the University of Adelaide, Australia, proves theoretically that the WEP can be violated by quantum particles in gravitational waves—the ripples in spacetime caused by colossal events such as merging black holes.
As well as resolving a long-standing debate in quantum theory, Quach’s findings could lead to the development of advanced new materials, including fluids with infinite conductivity and zero viscosity. These could be used as advanced gravitational wave detectors and may even lead to devices which can mirror gravitational waves and harvest their energy. Quach based