Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Rapid journey through a crystal lattice

15.01.2015

Researchers from the TU München and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics measure how long electrons need to travel through single atomic layers.

The time frames, in which electrons travel within atoms, are unfathomably short. For example, electrons excited by light change their quantum-mechanical location within mere attoseconds. An attosecond corresponds to a billionth of a billionth of a second.


Prof. Reinhard Kienberger at the attosecond beamline where the experiments were carried out.

(Photo: Thorsten Naeser)


Fig. 2

(Graphic: Christian Hackenberger)

But how fast do electrons whiz across distances corresponding to the diameter of individual atomic layers? Such distances are but a few billionths of a metre. An international team of researchers led by Reinhard Kienberger, Professor for Laser and X-Ray Physics at the TUM and Head of a Research Group at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics investigated the travel times of electrons over these extremely short distances.

To do so, the physicists applied a defined number of layers of magnesium atoms on top of a tungsten crystal. The researchers directed two pulses of light at these samples. The first pulse lasted approximately 450 attoseconds, at frequencies within the extreme ultraviolet. This light pulse penetrated the material and released an electron from a magnesium atom in the layer system as well as from an atom in the underlying tungsten crystal. Both the electrons that were set free stemmed from the immediate vicinity of the nucleus.

Once released, the "tungsten electron" and the "magnesium electron" travelled through the crystal to the surface at which point they left the solid body. (electrons from the tungsten crystal managed to penetrate up to four layers of magnesium atoms.) There, the particles were captured by the electric field of the second pulse, an infrared wave train lasting less than five femtoseconds.

As the "tungsten electron" and the "magnesium electron" reached the surface at different times due to different path lengths, they experienced the second pulse of infrared light at different times. That is, they were exposed to different strengths of the oscillating electric field. As a result, both particles were accelerated to varying degrees. From the resulting differences in the energy of the electrons, the researchers were able to determine how long an electron needed to pass through a single layer of atoms. The measurements determined that a "tungsten electron" is delayed when travelling through a layer of magnesium atoms by approximately 40 attoseconds, i.e., this is exactly the time required to travel through this layer.

The experiments provide insight into how electrons move within the widely unknown microcosm. Knowing how fast an electron travels from one place to the next is of substantial importance for many applications: "While a large number of electrons are able to cover increasingly large distances in today's transistors, for example, individual electrons could transmit a signal through nanostructures in future", explains Prof. Reinhard Kienberger. "As a result, electronic devices like computers could be made to be several times faster and smaller." Thorsten Naeser

Fig. 2: A laser pulse (red) and an extreme ultraviolet attosecond pulse (violet, 1 as =10 to the minus 18 s) hit a surface made of a few layers of magnesium atoms (dark blue) which is on top of a tungsten crystal lattice (green). After the XUV pulse has released electrons from the inner core of the tungsten atoms the physicists determine the time the electrons need for penetrating the magnesium layers by applying the NIR laser pulse.

Original publication:
S. Neppl, R. Ernstorfer, A.L. Cavalieri, C. Lemell, G. Wachter, E. Magerl, E.M. Bothschafter,
M. Jobst, M. Hofstetter, U. Kleineberg, J.V. Barth, D. Menzel, J. Burgdörfer, P. Feulner, F. Krausz and R. Kienberger
Direct observation of electron propagation and dielectric screening on the atomic length scale
Nature 15 January 2015

For more information, please contact:
Prof. Dr. Reinhard Kienberger
Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and
Chair of Laser and X-ray Physics, E11
Faculty of Physics, TU Munich
James-Franck-Str., 85748 Garching
Phone: +49 (0)89 / 289 - 12840 / Fax: -12842
E-mail: reinhard.kienberger@tum.de

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.e11.ph.tum.de

Dr. Olivia Meyer-Streng | Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators
14.12.2018 | DOE/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

nachricht In search of missing worlds, Hubble finds a fast evaporating exoplanet
14.12.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

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: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

In search of missing worlds, Hubble finds a fast evaporating exoplanet

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>