Testing the equivalence principle with time-diffracted free-falling quantum particles
División Académica de Ciencias Básicas, Universidad Juárez Autónoma de Tabasco, 86690, Cunduacán, Tabasco, México
2 Instituto de Ciencias Nucleares, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 04510, Ciudad de México, México
Accepted: 7 July 2022
Published online: 15 July 2022
The equivalence principle of gravity is examined at the quantum level using the diffraction in time of matter waves in two ways. First, we consider a quasi-monochromatic beam of particles incident on a shutter which is removed at time and fall due to the gravitational field. The probability density exhibits a set of mass-dependent oscillations which are genuinely quantum in nature, thereby reflecting quantum violations to the weak equivalence principle, although the strong equivalence principle remains valid. We estimate the degree of violation in terms of the width of the diffraction-in-time effect. Second, motivated by the recent advances in the manipulation of ultracold atoms and neutrons as well as the experimental observation of quantum states of ultracold neutrons in the gravitational field above a flat mirror, we study the diffraction in time of a suddenly released beam of particles initially prepared in gravitational quantum bound states. In this case, we quantify the degree of violation by comparing the time of flight from the mean position of the initial wave packet versus the time of flight as measured from the mirror. We show that, in this case both the weak and strong versions of the equivalence principle are violated. We demonstrate that compatibility between equivalence principle and quantum mechanics is recovered in the macroscopic (large-mass) limit. Possible realizations with ultracold neutrons, cesium atoms and large molecules are discussed.
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Società Italiana di Fisica and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2022