MSc. Manolo Rivera Lam  

Quantum mechanics sets fundamental limits on how fast quantum states can be transformed in time. Two wellknown quantum speed limits are the MandelstamTamm and the MargolusLevitin bounds, which relate the maximum speed of evolution to the system’s energy uncertainty and mean energy, respectively. Here, we test concurrently both limits in a multilevel system by following the motion of a single atom in an optical trap using fast matter wave interferometry. We find two different regimes: one where the MandelstamTamm limit constrains the evolution at all times, and a second where a crossover to the MargolusLevitin limit occurs at longer times. We take a geometric approach to quantify the deviation from the speed limit, measuring how much the quantum evolution deviates from the geodesic path in the Hilbert space of the multilevel system. Our results are important to understand the ultimate performance of quantum computing devices and related advanced quantum technologies.
Transforming an initial quantum state into a target state through the fastest possible route—a quantum brachistochrone—is a fundamental challenge for many technologies based on quantum mechanics. Here, we demonstrate fast coherent transport of an atomic wave packet over a distance of 15 times its size—a paradigmatic case of quantum processes where the target state cannot be reached through a local transformation. Our measurements of the transport fidelity reveal the existence of a minimum duration—a quantum speed limit—for the coherent splitting and recombination of matter waves. We obtain physical insight into this limit by relying on a geometric interpretation of quantum state dynamics. These results shed light upon a fundamental limit of quantum state dynamics and are expected to find relevant applications in quantum sensing and quantum computing.