Home | deutsch | Legals | Sitemap | Intranet | KIT
Portrait Monika Landgraf
Contact:
Monika Landgraf
Chief Press Officer, Head of Press Office

Phone: +49 721 608-47414
Fax: +49 721 608-43658
e-mail

Press Release 043/2012

Nature: Video Reveals Wave Character of Particles

Wave Properties of Individual Heavy Molecules Can Also Be Observed Experimentally/Video Shows Development of Interference Pattern in (Nearly) Real Time
Jedes einzelne Molekül fluorisziert und wird zum Teil des Interferenzmusters.  Die Bilder a)-e) zeigen den Zustand jeweils nach 0, 2, 20, 40 und 90 Minuten.  (Bild: T. Juffmann et al, DOI: 10.1038/NNANO.2012.34)
Every individual molecule fluoresces and becomes part of the interference pattern. Figures a) - e) show the states after 0, 2, 20, 40, and 90 minutes, respectively. Image: T. Juffmann et al., DOI: 10.1038/NNANO.2012.34

Quantum theory describes the world of atoms very precisely. Still, it defies our macroscopic conception of everyday’s world due to its many anti-intuitive predictions. The wave-particle dualism probably is the best known example and means that matter may spread and interfere like waves. Now, an international team of researchers has recorded the interference process of individual molecules. The recordings were published by the journal “nature nanotechnology” online.

“Seeing how the interference pattern develops with every light spot, molecule after molecule, and how a basic principle of quantum mechanics is visualized enhances our understanding of the atomic world,” explains Professor Marcel Mayor, who conducts research and teaches at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the University of Basel.

For the experiment performed in cooperation with colleagues from the universities of Vienna and Tel Aviv, Mayor synthesized fluorescent phtalocyanin molecules having an atomic mass of up to 1298 AMU and consisting of up to 114 atoms. Then, the molecules were accelerated, sent as a slow beam through an optical grating, and deposited on the entrance vacuum window, where they were excited to fluoresce by a laser. For a period of 90 minutes, a fluorescence microscope observed the build-up of the interference pattern. Its setup has a sufficient sensitivity to exactly locate every individual molecule on the window with a precision of about 10 nanometers.

In the future, the setup might be used to study the so-called van-der-Waals interaction between molecules in the beam and those in the grating, which is reflected rather sensitively by the interference pattern. Researchers are also interested in finding out from which size and under which conditions particles behave quantum mechanically or classically, i.e. in the so-called decoherence. These findings may be the basis for novel applications, such as quantum computers. “But the many insights given by this experiment into the quantum world and its boundaries already are of high value,” Mayor agrees with many experts, among others Bum Suk Zhao and Wieland Schöllkopf from the Fritz Haber Institute, Berlin, who evaluate the experiment in the accompanying comment article in the same journal.

“Real-time single-molecule imaging of quantum interference”, T. Juffmann et al., nature nanotechnology, DOI 10.1038/ NNANO.2012.34

The paper in the web portal of the nature nanotechnology journal
http://www.nature.com/nnano/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nnano.2012.34.html

Accompanying comment article
http://www.nature.com/nnano/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nnano.2012.44.html

 

 

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is a public corporation according to the legislation of the state of Baden-Württemberg. It fulfills the mission of a university and the mission of a national research center of the Helmholtz Association. Research activities focus on energy, the natural and built environment as well as on society and technology and cover the whole range extending from fundamental aspects to application. With about 9400 employees, including more than 6000 staff members in the science and education sector, and 24500 students, KIT is one of the biggest research and education institutions in Europe. Work of KIT is based on the knowledge triangle of research, teaching, and innovation.

kes, 26.03.2012

For further information, please contact:

Kosta Schinarakis
PKM, Themenscout
Tel.: +49 721 608-41956
Fax: +49 721 608-43568
E-Mail:schinarakis@kit.edu
The photo of printing quality may be requested by presseYub6∂kit edu or phone: +49 721 608-47414. The press release is available as a PDF file.