One of the most peculiar aspects of quantum theory is the observer effect, the idea that the very act of observing and measuring something – just observing and measuring, nothing more – can actually change it in some way.
Now researchers have determined via theoretical modelling that this effect can change the flow of energy particles in a current, so that they move against it. In quantum devices, the team found, the act of observing makes flow in one direction or the other more likely.
“Depending on how and where the observation takes place, the direction of heat and particle currents can be independently controlled. In fact, we show that the current and heat flow in a quantum material can go against the natural temperature and voltage gradients.”
When observed in a certain location, the current’s natural flow is amplified.
Below, you can see an artist’s impression of the role of a quantum observer as it would apply to water flow: depending on where the observer is positioned, and what part of the figure is seen, the water will be seen to flow differently.
“Obviously, if the load starts to build up, it would end up going in the opposite direction. In other words, the observer projects the state of the system onto a state that transmits the current or energy in opposite directions.”