Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Inside A Quantum Dot: Tracking Electrons At Trillionths Of A Second

Date:
November 25, 2005
Source:
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
Summary:
Researchers at the EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne) have developed a new machine that can reveal how electrons behave inside a single nano-object. The results from initial tests on pyramidal gallium-arsenide quantum dots are presented in an article in the November 24 issue of Nature.

Nanopyramids of gallium arsenide.
Credit: Image courtesy of Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Researchers at the EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne) have developed a new machine that can reveal how electrons behave inside a single nano-object. The results from initial tests on pyramidal gallium-arsenide quantum dots are presented in an article in the November 24 issue of Nature.

Hiding in the lab behind a dramatic black curtain, the hardware setup is not particularly imposing. It doesn't look expensive. Nonetheless, this machine in EPFL's Laboratory of quantum optoelectronics took four years to perfect and represents an equipment investment of more than a million Swiss francs.

It is an ingenious combination of technologies onto a single powerful platform. It will improve our understanding of the dynamics that rule the nanoscale world, perhaps opening doors to exploiting the physics of nanoscale phenomena for practical ends.

Even the most sophisticated methods used to explore material properties and dynamics run into limits when applied at the nanoscale. Current techniques either have good spatial resolution (down to tens of nanometers or below) or an ultrafast time resolution (down to picoseconds), but not both.

At least not until now. The machine developed by Professor Benoit Deveaud-Pledran and his EPFL colleagues is the first tool that can track the passage of an electron in a nanostructure – at a time scale of ten picoseconds and a spatial resolution of 50 nanometers.

The EPFL researchers replaced the standard electron gun filament on an off-the-shelf electron microscope with a 20 nanometer-thick gold photocathode. The gold is illuminated by an ultraviolet mode-locked laser, generating an electron beam that pulses 80 million times per second. Each pulse contains fewer than 10 electrons. The electrons excite the sample, causing it to emit light. The spectroscopic information is collected and analyzed to recreate the surface morphology and to trace the path the electrons follow through the sample.

Deveaud-Pledran and his colleagues tested their new machine on pyramidal quantum dots. These 2-micron-high nano-objects, specially synthesized in the lab of EPFL professor Eli Kapon, contain several different nanostructures, making them ideal test objects. When the electron beam impacts the pyramid, the electrons diffuse towards the closest nanostructure. From there, the diffusion continues until the point of lowest energy is reached -- the quantum dot at the tip of the pyramid. The time traces corresponding to each of these nanostructures reveal just how critical that 10- picosecond time resolution is; with even a 100-picosecond resolution, important information would be lost.

The machine will not only give us a glimpse into nanoscale dynamics, but because it will work on any semiconductor, it will also allow researchers to study previously intractable materials. The wide energy range of the electrons in the beam can excite materials that won't luminesce with laser techniques, explains Deveaud-Pledran. "With a laser, you can't get a short enough wavelength to excite diamond or silicon, for example. This machine will."

Nanotechnology is widely heralded as the key to the technology of the future -- everything from quantum computing to ultra-dense data storage to quantum cryptography depends on the behavior and control of materials at the nanoscale.

"Remember the first portable CD-players?" says Deveaud. "They consumed 4 AA batteries reading a single disk. We improved our understanding of the physics of materials, and now they consume 50 times less energy. As far as the nanoworld is concerned, we still don't understand the dynamics of materials at the nanoscale. I can't tell you exactly what this machine will lead to because that depends on who uses it and what we find. But there's no question that it will help us make progress, and that the potential applications are exciting."

###

"Probing carrier dynamics in nanostructures by picosecond cathodoluminescence" Nature, 24 Nov 2004

M. Merano, S. Sonderegger, A. Crottini, S. Collin, P. Renucci, E. Pelucchi, A. Malko, M. H. Baier, E. Kapon, B. Deveaud1 & J.-D. Ganiere


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. "Inside A Quantum Dot: Tracking Electrons At Trillionths Of A Second." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 November 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051124113814.htm>.
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. (2005, November 25). Inside A Quantum Dot: Tracking Electrons At Trillionths Of A Second. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051124113814.htm
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. "Inside A Quantum Dot: Tracking Electrons At Trillionths Of A Second." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051124113814.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) — After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the industry fell under intense scrutiny. Now, small underground nuclear power plants are being considered as the possible future of the nuclear energy. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show

Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) — An electric car that proponents hope will replace horse-drawn carriages in New York City has also been revealed at the auto show. (Apr. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Honda's New ASIMO Robot, More Human-Like Than Ever

Honda's New ASIMO Robot, More Human-Like Than Ever

AFP (Apr. 17, 2014) — It walks and runs, even up and down stairs. It can open a bottle and serve a drink, and politely tries to shake hands with a stranger. Meet the latest ASIMO, Honda's humanoid robot. Duration: 00:54 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
German Researchers Crack Samsung's Fingerprint Scanner

German Researchers Crack Samsung's Fingerprint Scanner

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) — German researchers have used a fake fingerprint made from glue to bypass the fingerprint security system on Samsung's new Galaxy S5 smartphone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins