Real-time single-molecule imaging of quantum interference

Thomas Juffmann, Adriana Milic, Michael Müllneritsch, Peter Asenbaum, Alexander Tsukernik, Jens Tüxen, Marcel Mayor, Ori Cheshnovsky, Markus Arndt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The observation of interference patterns in double-slit experiments with massive particles is generally regarded as the ultimate demonstration of the quantum nature of these objects. Such matter-wave interference has been observed for electrons1, neutrons2, atoms3,4 and molecules5-7 and, in contrast to classical physics, quantum interference can be observed when single particles arrive at the detector one by one. The build-up of such patterns in experiments with electrons has been described as the "most beautiful experiment in physics" 8-11. Here, we show how a combination of nanofabrication and nano-imaging allows us to record the full two-dimensional build-up of quantum interference patterns in real time for phthalocyanine molecules and for derivatives of phthalocyanine molecules, which have masses of 514 AMU and 1,298 AMU respectively. A laser-controlled micro-evaporation source was used to produce a beam of molecules with the required intensity and coherence, and the gratings were machined in 10-nm-thick silicon nitride membranes to reduce the effect of van der Waals forces. Wide-field fluorescence microscopy detected the position of each molecule with an accuracy of 10 nm and revealed the build-up of a deterministic ensemble interference pattern from single molecules that arrived stochastically at the detector. In addition to providing this particularly clear demonstration of wave-particle duality, our approach could also be used to study larger molecules and explore the boundary between quantum and classical physics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-300
Number of pages4
JournalNature Nanotechnology
Volume7
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2012

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