Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Single molecules in a quantum movie

The quantum physics of massive particles has intrigued physicists for more than 80 years, since it predicts that even complex particles can exhibit wave-like behaviour – in conflict with our everyday ideas of what is real or local.
An international team of scientists now succeeded in shooting a movie which shows the build-up of a matter-wave interference pattern from single dye molecules which is so large (up to 0.1 mm) that you can easily see it with a camera.

This visualizes the dualities of particle and wave, randomness and determinism, locality and delocalization in a particularly intuitive way. Seeing is believing: the movie by Thomas Juffmann et al. will be published on March 25 in "Nature Nanotechnology".

A quantum premiere with dye molecules as leading actors
Physicist Richard Feynman once claimed that interference effects caused by matter-waves contain the only mystery of quantum physics. Understanding and applying matter waves for new technologies is also at the heart of the research pursued by the Quantum Nanophysics team around Markus Arndt at the University of Vienna and the Vienna Center for Quantum Science and Technology.

These are selected frames of a movie showing the buildup of a quantum interference pattern from single phthalocyanine molecules. Credit: Image credits: University of Vienna/Juffmann et al. (Nature Nanotechnology 2012)

The scientists now premiered a movie which shows the build-up of a quantum interference pattern from stochastically arriving single phthalocyanine particles after these highly-fluorescent dye molecules traversed an ultra-thin nanograting. As soon as the molecules arrive on the screen the researchers take live images using a spatially resolving fluorescence microscope whose sensitivity is so high that each molecule can be imaged and located individually with an accuracy of about 10 nanometers. This is less than a thousandth of the diameter of a human hair and still less than 1/60 of the wavelength of the imaging light.

A breath of nothing

In these experiments van der Waals forces between the molecules and the gratings pose a particular challenge. These forces arise due to quantum fluctuations and strongly affect the observed interference pattern. In order to reduce the van der Waals interaction the scientists used gratings as thin as 10 nanometers (only about 50 silicon nitride layers). These ultra-thin gratings were manufactured by the nanotechnology team around Ori Cheshnovski at the Tel Aviv University who used a focused ion beam to cut the required slits into a free-standing membrane.

Tailored nanoparticles

Already in this study the experiments could be extended to phthalocyanine heavier derivatives which were tailor-made by Marcel Mayor and his group at the University of Basel. They represent the most massive molecules in quantum far-field diffraction so far.

Motivation and continuation

The newly developed and combined micro- and nanotechnologies for generating, diffracting and detecting molecular beams will be important for extending quantum interference experiments to more and more complex molecules but also for atom interferometry.

The experiments have a strongly didactical component: they reveal the single-particle character of complex quantum diffraction patterns on a macroscopic scale that is visible to the eye. You can see them emerge in real-time and they last for hours on the screen. The experiments thus render the wave-particle duality of quantum physics particularly tangible and conspicuous.

The experiments have a practical side, too. They allow to access molecular properties close to solid interfaces and they show a way towards future diffraction studies at atomically thin membranes.

After March 26th 2012, the movie will be accessible through Nature Nanotechnology and through

This project was supported by the Austrian FWF Z149-N16 (Wittgenstein), ESF/FWF/SNF MIME (I146) and the Swiss SNF in the NCCR "Nanoscale Science".

Publication in "Nature Nanotechnology" Real-time single-molecule imaging of quantum interference: Thomas Juffmann, Adriana Milic, Michael Müllneritsch, Peter Asenbaum, Alexander Tsukernik, Jens Tüxen, Marcel Mayor, Ori Cheshnovsky and Markus Arndt. Nature Nanotechnology (2012). DOI: 10.1038/NNANO.2012.34. Online Publication: 25.3.2012

Scientific contact
Prof. Markus Arndt (Quantum interference)
T 43-1-4277-512 10
Prof. Ori Cheshnovski (Nanofabrication)
T 972-3-6408325
Prof. Marcel Mayor (Chemical synthesis)
T 41-61-267-10-06

Markus Arndt | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Astronomers release most complete ultraviolet-light survey of nearby galaxies
18.05.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht A quantum entanglement between two physically separated ultra-cold atomic clouds
17.05.2018 | University of the Basque Country

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: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

Im Focus: Computer-Designed Customized Regenerative Heart Valves

Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully implanted regenerative heart valves, designed with the aid of computer simulations, into sheep for the first time.

Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing...

Im Focus: Light-induced superconductivity under high pressure

A team of scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg investigated optically-induced superconductivity in the alkali-doped fulleride K3C60under high external pressures. This study allowed, on one hand, to uniquely assess the nature of the transient state as a superconducting phase. In addition, it unveiled the possibility to induce superconductivity in K3C60 at temperatures far above the -170 degrees Celsius hypothesized previously, and rather all the way to room temperature. The paper by Cantaluppi et al has been published in Nature Physics.

Unlike ordinary metals, superconductors have the unique capability of transporting electrical currents without any loss. Nowadays, their technological...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Supersonic waves may help electronics beat the heat

18.05.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Keeping a Close Eye on Ice Loss

18.05.2018 | Information Technology

CrowdWater: An App for Flood Research

18.05.2018 | Information Technology

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>