'Universal' matter-wave interferometer relies on laser-produced ionization gratings

Three pulsed laser gratings in a matter-wave interferometer flash for only a few nanoseconds each. (Copyright: J. Rodewald/QNP/University of Vienna)

Vienna, Austria--Researchers at the University of Vienna have created what they call a universal matter-wave closed-path interferometer; the gratings that steer the beams of matter and cause them to interfere are formed by three pulses of a standing ultraviolet (UV) laser beam that create periodic arrays of ions.1 The researchers say that their interferometer is potentially capable of working with forms of matter ranging from atoms to atom clusters, molecules, and even nanospheres; so far, the researchers have observed the interference of fast molecular clusters with a composite de Broglie wavelength as small as 275 fm.

The three gratings, which have periods down to 80 nm, are created by nanosecond laser pulses, and therefore exist themselves for only about a nanosecond (and never simultaneously). "Interferometry in the time-domain with pulsed light gratings will become a central element of quantum experiments with nanoparticles," says Philipp Haslinger of the University of Vienna, who is the lead author of the paper.

Matter-wave interferometry has a longstanding tradition at the University of Vienna, where the first quantum interference of large molecules was observed in 1999.

The project is supported within the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and the Austrian Ministry of Science (BMWF). The experiments were performed within the Vienna Center for Quantum Science and Technology, VCQ, at the Faculty of Physics, University of Vienna.


1. Philipp Haslinger et al., Nature Physics (2013), doi:10.1038/nphys2542

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