Single-, double-, and triple-slit diffraction of molecular matter waves

Christian Brand*, Stephan Troyer, Christian Knobloch, Ori Cheshnovsky, Markus Arndt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Even 100 years after its introduction by Louis de Broglie, the wave-nature of matter is often regarded as a mind-boggling phenomenon. To give an intuitive introduction to this field, we here discuss the diffraction of massive molecules through a single, a double, and a triple slit, as well as a nanomechanical grating. While the experiments are in good agreement with undergraduate textbook predictions, we also observe pronounced differences resulting from the molecules' mass and internal complexity. The molecules' polarizability causes an attractive van der Waals interaction with the slit walls, which can be modified by rotating the nanomechanical mask with respect to the molecular beam. The text is meant to introduce students and teachers to the concepts of molecule diffraction, supported by problems and solutions that can be discussed in class.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1132-1138
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Physics
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021


FundersFunder number
Austrian Science FundP-30176


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