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Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Microscopy with a quantum tip: Physicists use ultra-cold rubidium atoms to probe and image nanostructured surfaces -- ScienceDaily

By Jonathan Cheng

Microscopes make tiny objects visible, as their name suggests. However, modern microscopes often do this in a round-about way, not by optically imaging the object with light, but by probing the surface with a fine, needle-like tip. Here, where optical imaging methods reach their limits, scanning probe microscopes can show, by different methods, structures as small as one millionth of a millimetre. With their help, phenomena in the nanoworld become visible and targeted manipulation becomes possible. The heart of a scanning probe microscope is a moveable, suspended tip, which, like the needle on a record player, reacts to small height variations on the surface, and turns these into signals that can be displayed on a computer. Researchers in Germany have now been able to create this tip, not out of solid material, as in the case of the record player, but out of an ultra-cold, dilute gas of atoms.