Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Pitt researchers see electron waves in motion for first time


New imaging technique—a trillion times faster than conventional techniques—advances field of plasmonics, could lead to better semiconductors

Both the ancient art of stained glass and the cutting-edge field of plasmonics rely on the oscillation of electrons in nanosized metal particles. When light shines on such particles, it excites the electromagnetic fields on the metal’s surface, known as "surface plasmons," and causes its electrons to oscillate in waves--producing the rich hues of stained glass.

But because electrons move nearly as fast as light, those oscillations have been difficult to observe and had never before been seen in motion. Now, in a paper published in the current issue of the journal Nano Letters, Pitt researchers have demonstrated a microscopy technique that allows the movement of the plasmons to be seen for the first time, at a resolution a trillion times better than conventional techniques.

Hrvoje Petek, professor of physics and astronomy at Pitt, and Hong Koo Kim, Pitt professor of electrical and computer engineering, codirectors of Pitt’s Institute of NanoScience and Engineering, showed in their paper, "Femtosecond Imaging of Surface Plasmon Dynamics in a Nanostructured Silver Film," that it is indeed possible to achieve high-resolution imaging through a combination of ultra-fast laser and electron optic methods. Although theoretically possible, this technique had never been demonstrated in practice.

Petek and Kim used a pair of 10-femtosecond (one quadrillionth of a second) laser pulses to induce the emission of electrons from the sample, a nanostructured thin silver film. Scanning the pulse delay, they recorded a movie of surface plasmon fields at 330 attoseconds (quintillionths of a second) per frame. The video is available online at

Their research is a boon to the emerging field of plasmonics. Currently, semiconductor chips each contain "about a mile" of wires, said Petek. When electrons carry electrical signals through such wires they collide about every 10 nanometers (10-8 m). In part, this causes problems because the chips give off too much heat. The solution may be to send the signal as plasmon waves, which would lead to faster chips and less dissipation of energy, Petek said.

Karen Hoffmann | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA
27.10.2016 | University of Oklahoma

nachricht First results of NSTX-U research operations
26.10.2016 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>