Targeting Individual Atoms

Targeting Individual Atoms

A control voltage is responsible for moving the atom, thus for turning the single-atom switch on and off. And the control voltage needed to operate the single-atom switch is one hundred times lower than what is required for today’s silicon semiconductors. Schimmel and his team have also succeeded in radically reducing the voltage from some thirty millivolts in their first single-atom switch prototype to a mere three-to-six millivolts in the latest version. One of the main goals of this workshop is to assemble a Community Roadmap that is supported by the cold atom community and the potential user communities interested in its science goals.

  • To do so, the scientists designed an experiment in which the photon-phonon pair could be created at two different instants.
  • “Our single-atom transistor made of tin is a true milestone in our research,” says Schimmel.
  • To conserve energy during this process, a light of a new color is emitted, shifted toward the red of the spectrum.
  • We also perform density functional theory calculations to elucidate the physical origins of the contrast observed.
  • Moreover, Leuthold was the first researcher able to place both optical and electronic switching elements on the same chip.

In 1998 two teams of astronomers working independently at Berkeley, California observed that supernovae – exploding stars – were moving away from Earth at an accelerating rate. Physicists had assumed that matter in the universe would slow its rate of expansion; gravity would eventually cause the universe to fall back on its centre. Though the Big Bang theory cannot describe what the conditions were at the very beginning of the universe, it can help physicists describe the earliest moments after the start of the expansion. At CERN, we probe the fundamental structure of particles that make up everything around us. We do so using the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments.

This nanoscale dance of atoms can thus be observed as orange and red flashes of fluorescence, which are signatures of atoms undergoing rearrangements. The gold nano-antenna also amplifies the very faint light scattered by the newly formed atomic defects, making it visible to the naked eye. In recent decades, NMR spectroscopy has made it possible to capture the spatial structure of chemical and biochemical molecules.

Some of them joined together years ago in the PiHe collaborationwith the goal of determining the mass and other properties of the pion as accurately as possible. Beside the PSI the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics and CERN are involved in the PiHe collaboration. Recently the PiHe researchers published their latest findings in the journal ‘Nature’. Schimmel is convinced that the single-atom transistor has the potential to revolutionise the digital world in another way, too.

Community Workshop On Cold Atoms In Space

We also perform density functional theory calculations to elucidate the physical origins of the contrast observed. The calculations reveal that the Pauli repulsion is the source of the atomic resolution and yield insights into the important role of the tip functionalization . Astronomical and physical calculations suggest that the visible universe is only a tiny amount (4%) of what the universe is actually made of. A very large fraction of the universe, in fact 26%, is made of an unknown type of matter called “dark matter”.

Particle physics probes the basic building blocks of matter and their interactions, which determine the structure and properties of the extreme diversity of matter in the universe. The web portal makes the fascinating research understandable to an interested public. To produce pionic helium, one of the two electrons of the helium atom is replaced by a pion. This artificially created atom can then be examined with a laser beam.

Mobile phones and laptops, for example, are equipped with integrated microwave circuits for wireless communication and satellite navigation. In the design and development of these circuits, computer simulations play an important role. However, because of the large number of components in modern integrated circuits, such simulations have to rely on approximations and are not always reliable. Therefore, measurements are required to test the circuits and to verify their performance. To enable efficient testing and specific improvement, one would ideally like to measure all components of the microwave field directly and with very high spatial resolution.


One aspect that has proven a major challenge is the manufacture of tiny, atomic-scale wires. Moreover, the production steps in making the atomsized transistors are complex and demanding, meaning that Leuthold, Schimmel and their teams are experimenting with a wide range of materials and geometries. In the computers of tomorrow, millions of single atoms will be performing this dance to transmit signals.


The researchers have developed a component for microchips that’s just 10 nanometres long. But the fundamental innovation is less its size than that it functions at the atomic level. The nano-component is made of silver and platinum pads that approach one another until only a tiny gap remains.

The resulting flow of electricity can be used to power common electronic devices—for example, a halogen lamp, as Schimmel has demonstrated in his Karlsruhe lab. In our experiment , the microwave field to be imaged drives a transition between two hyperfine states of the atoms. The probability of finding an atom in either state thereby oscillates with a Rabi frequency which depends on the local microwave field strength at the position of the atom.

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