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Visualizing Quantum Particles at the Sub-nanometer Scale

A recent work, spearheaded by members of our Physics and Astronomy department with collaborators from Columbia University and UC San Diego, unveiled a new tool that can image quantum particles. The particles, called Dirac magnetoexcitons (DiMEs), were seen at infrared frequencies for the first time!

Magneto infrared optics now goes nano. Credit: Michael Dapolito, Xinzhong Chen, Mengkun Liu

The new imaging tool combines a cryogenic scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy (SNOM) with high magnetic fields. The SNOM technique is commonly used to study quantum particles smaller than the diffraction limit of light. However, to fully probe the properties of these particles, researchers needed to cool the microscopes to cryogenic temperatures and operate them under strong magnetic fields.

"Electrons in a magnetic field do strange things that we haven’t seen before, because the resolution of existing tools that are compatible with magnetic fields hasn’t been good enough. These results should be the first of many with this monumental new tool."

-- Dmitri Basov, co-author

dime imaging

The image above, published in the article in Nature, depicts the appearance of the interesting quantum phenomena at high magnetic fields -- here, at a strength of 7 Tesla. For reference, the strength of Earth's magnetic field that we experience daily is only a few tens of micro-Tesla in strength.

The paper, published in Nature, may be found here. A highlight article published by Columbia may be read here.