Quantum particles put under the microscope

Prof Stefan Kuhr

Researchers at the Department of Physics have achieved imaging of individual fermionic atoms in an optical lattice. Such an optical lattice is made of interfering laser beams, creating an “artificial crystal of light” in which atoms can be held like marbles in the hollows of an egg carton.


For the first time, a special kind of atoms, fermionic potassium-40, has been held and visualised atom by atom, lattice site by lattice site using a high-resolution microscope combined with sophisticating laser cooling and imaging methods. These new developments could find use in making quantum simulators - a kind of super-powerful quantum computer that could emulate the behaviour of electrons in solids. The work will lead to a deeper understanding of properties of solids such as magnetism or superconductivity and will have implications for engineering of future materials.

Publication:  E. Haller, J. Hudson, A. Kelly, D. Cotta, B. Peaudecerf, G. Bruce and S. Kuhr, Nature Physics (Advance Online Publication, 13th July 2015), DOI: 10.1038/nphys3403.

13th July 2015