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 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. To do this, they cooled an especially pure gas of rubidium atoms to a temperature less than a millionth of a degree above absolute zero temperature, and stored the atoms in a magnetic trap. This 'quantum tip' can be precisely positioned and enables the probing of nanostructured surfaces.
Jun 6th, 2011Read more