Particle physics is the branch of physics that looks at the elementary constituents of matter. At the level of atoms and sub-atomic particles, objects behave very differently compared with large objects we see around us every day. Quantum theory is an attempt to describe the behaviour of matter and energy at this sub atomic scale. Particle Physics also deals with very fast particles, moving at speeds close to the speed of light.

1. Science fact or science future

Laser - fact
Electron microscope - fact
Magnetic resonance imaging - fact
Quantum cryptography - fact
Quantum computers - future
Quantum teleportation - future
Semiconductors - fact
Quantum tunnelling - fact
Instantaneous communication using quantum entanglement - future

2. Match the apps

In this activity students are presented with a set of cards with an application (present or future) of quantum physics. Another set of cards has a description about the application - match up the description with the application. In the description three question marks (???) have replaced the word(s) used in the application.

Print out the worksheet or make them into cards and give out one set to each group (4-5 students) - students have to try to match the description to the application.

The correct answers are here.


3. Invisibility at the flick of a switch

Get students to work in pairs to come up with applications of an invisible material. You could allow them to come up with one fun idea like the example on the video of looking at fruit pastilles (this could be designed as a phone app!) and one serious idea that can be used to advance science or save lives. After students have shared their ideas with the rest of the class, get them to vote for their favourite ideas.


Curriculum links

Physics 3.7 Quantum and nuclear physics
a) Photons: photon model to explain observable phenomena, evidence supporting the photon model
b) Particles: evidence supporting the quantum model for particles, a study of particle diffraction would provide suitable depth of treatment

Scottish Curriculum

Physics Higher

Potentially relevant to module: Particles and Waves (sub-atomic physics and waves. study of particle physics and waves, with wave-particle duality as a linking theme.)


Applications of quantum physics

invisibility_300Quantum physics may seem like a mind-blowing topic in the realms of "thought-experiments" rather than having practical use. But there are applications of quantum physics that could lead to new exciting technologies - you can discover them in the activities below.

  1. Science fact or science future
  2. Match the apps
  3. Invisibility at the flick of a switch


1. Science fact or science future

Take this online quiz to find out which quantum applications are science fact (those that are already being used) and which are science future (those technologies that might be available in the future).



2.   Match the apps

Find out more about applications of quantum physics in this next activity. Match the description with the everyday application. In the description three question marks (???) have replaced the word(s) used in the application.

Download the pdf worksheet here.



3.   Invisibility at the flick of a switch

Scientists at Imperial College London have used the rules of quantum physics to create crystals of "designer atoms" that are transparent - or invisible. Read about their research here and find out more by watching this video.

At the end of the video is this question: "if you had an invisibility machine what would you use it for?"  Some examples are: seeing through rubble at earthquake sites, or looking at parts of the body obscured by bone. At the moment the scientists can only recreate the material in the lab.

If you had an invisible material what would you do with it?