Scientists at TU Wien, the University of Innsbruck and the ÖAW have for the first time demonstrated a wave effect that can lead to measurement errors in the optical position estimation of objects. The work now published in Nature Physics could have consequences for optical microscopy and optical astronomy, but could also play a role in position measurements using sound, radar, or gravitational waves.
With modern optical imaging techniques, the position of objects can be measured with a precision that reaches a few nanometers. These techniques are used in the laboratory, for example, to determine the position of atoms in quantum experiments.
"We want to know the position of our quantum bits very precisely so that we can manipulate and measure them with laser beams," explains Gabriel Araneda from the Department of Experimental Physics at the University of Innsbruck.
A collaborative work between physicists at TU Wien, Vienna, led by Arno Rauschenbeutel (now an Alexander von Humboldt Professor at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), and researchers at the University of Innsbruck and the Institute of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information, led by Rainer Blatt, has now demonstrated that a systematic error can occur when determining the position of particles that emit elliptically polarized light.
“The elliptical polarization causes the wavefronts of the light to have a spiral shape and to hit the imaging optics at a slight angle. This leads to the impression that the source of the light is somewhat off its actual position,” explains Yves Colombe from Rainer Blatt's team. This could be relevant, for example, in biomedical research, where luminous proteins or nanoparticles are used as markers to determine biological structures. The effect that has now been proven would possibly lead to a distorted image of the actual structures.
Any kind of waves could show this behavior
More than 80 years ago, the physicist Charles G. Darwin, grandson of the British natural scientist Charles Darwin, predicted this effect. Since that time, several theoretical studies have substantiated his prediction. Now, it has been possible for the first time to clearly prove the wave effect in experiments, and this twice:
At the University of Innsbruck, physicists determined, through single photon emission, the position of a single barium atom trapped in an ion trap. Physicists at Atominstitut of TU Wien (Vienna) determined the position of a small gold sphere, about 100 nanometers in size, by analyzing its scattered light. In both cases, there was a difference between the observed and the actual position of the particle.
“The deviation is on the order of the wavelength of the light and it can add up to a considerable measurement error in many applications," says Stefan Walser from Arno Rauschenbeutel’s team. "Super-resolution light microscopy, for example, has already penetrated far into the nanometer range, whereas this effect can lead to errors of several 100 nanometers.”
The scientists believe it is very likely that this fundamental systematic error will also play a role in these applications, but this has yet to be proven in separate studies. The researchers also assume that this effect will not only be observed with light sources, but that radar or sonar measurements, for example, could also be affected. The effect could even play a role in future applications for the position estimation of astronomical objects using their gravitational waves emission.
The work has been published in Nature Physics and was financially supported by the Austrian Science Fund FWF, the European Union and the Tyrolean Federation of Industry.
Department of Experimental Physics
University of Innsbruck
phone: +43 512 507 52472
phone: +43 1 58801 141723
Wavelength-scale errors in optical localization due to spin-orbit coupling of light. G. Araneda, S. Walser, Y. Colombe, D. B. Higginbottom, J. Volz, R. Blatt, and A. Rauschenbeutel. Nature Physics 2018 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41567-018-0301-y
Dr. Christian Flatz | Universität Innsbruck
Tel Aviv University-led team discovers new way supermassive black holes are 'fed'
15.01.2019 | American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Arbitrary quantum channel simulation for a superconducting qubit
14.01.2019 | Science China Press
Cellulose obtained from wood has amazing material properties. Empa researchers are now equipping the biodegradable material with additional functionalities to produce implants for cartilage diseases using 3D printing.
It all starts with an ear. Empa researcher Michael Hausmann removes the object shaped like a human ear from the 3D printer and explains:
The phenomenon of so-called superlubricity is known, but so far the explanation at the atomic level has been missing: for example, how does extremely low friction occur in bearings? Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institutes IWM and IWS jointly deciphered a universal mechanism of superlubricity for certain diamond-like carbon layers in combination with organic lubricants. Based on this knowledge, it is now possible to formulate design rules for supra lubricating layer-lubricant combinations. The results are presented in an article in Nature Communications, volume 10.
One of the most important prerequisites for sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility is minimizing friction. Research and industry have been dedicated...
Just in time for Christmas, a Mars-analogue mission in Morocco, coordinated by the Robotics Innovation Center of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) as part of the SRC project FACILITATORS, has been successfully completed. SRC, the Strategic Research Cluster on Space Robotics Technologies, is a program of the European Union to support research and development in space technologies. From mid-November to mid-December 2018, a team of more than 30 scientists from 11 countries tested technologies for future exploration of Mars and Moon in the desert of the Maghreb state.
Close to the border with Algeria, the Erfoud region in Morocco – known to tourists for its impressive sand dunes – offered ideal conditions for the four-week...
Research opens doors in photonic quantum information processing, optical signal processing and microwave photonics
Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a new integrated photonics platform that can...
A team of experimentalists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory and theoreticians at University of Alabama Birmingham discovered a remarkably long-lived new state of matter in an iron pnictide superconductor, which reveals a laser-induced formation of collective behaviors that compete with superconductivity.
"Superconductivity is a strange state of matter, in which the pairing of electrons makes them move faster," said Jigang Wang, Ames Laboratory physicist and...
14.01.2019 | Event News
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
15.01.2019 | Life Sciences
15.01.2019 | Information Technology
15.01.2019 | Materials Sciences