Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Quantum kisses change the color of nothing: New ways to measure the world at the scale of single atoms and molecules

Date:
November 7, 2012
Source:
University of Cambridge
Summary:
Even empty gaps have a color. Now scientists have shown that quantum jumps of electrons can change the color of gaps between nano-sized balls of gold. The new results set a fundamental quantum limit on how tightly light can be trapped.

Illustration of nano-sized balls of gold.
Credit: M Hawkeye, NanoPhotonics, Cambridge

Even empty gaps have a colour. Now scientists have shown that quantum jumps of electrons can change the colour of gaps between nano-sized balls of gold. The new results, published today in the journal Nature, set a fundamental quantum limit on how tightly light can be trapped.

The team from the Universities of Cambridge, the Basque Country and Paris have combined tour de force experiments with advanced theories to show how light interacts with matter at nanometre sizes. The work shows how they can literally see quantum mechanics in action in air at room temperature.

Because electrons in a metal move easily, shining light onto a tiny crack pushes electric charges onto and off each crack face in turn, at optical frequencies. The oscillating charge across the gap produces a 'plasmonic' colour for the ghostly region in-between, but only when the gap is small enough.

Team leader Professor Jeremy Baumberg from the University of Cambridge Cavendish Laboratory suggests we think of this like the tension building between a flirtatious couple staring into each other's eyes. As their faces get closer the tension mounts, and only a kiss discharges this energy.

In the new experiments, the gap is shrunk below 1nm (1 billionth of a metre) which strongly reddens the gap colour as the charge builds up. However because electrons can jump across the gap by quantum tunnelling, the charge can drain away when the gap is below 0.35nm, seen as a blue-shifting of the colour. As Baumberg says, "It is as if you can kiss without quite touching lips."

Matt Hawkeye, from the experimental team at Cambridge, said: "Lining up the two nano-balls of gold is like closing your eyes and touching together two needles strapped to the end of your fingers. It has taken years of practise to get good at it."

Prof Javier Aizpurua, leader of the theoretical team from San Sebastian complains: "Trying to model so many electrons oscillating inside the gold just cannot be done with existing theories." He has had to fuse classical and quantum views of the world to even predict the colour shifts seen in experiment.

The new insights from this work suggest ways to measure the world down to the scale of single atoms and molecules, and strategies to make useful tiny devices.

The research is funded as part of a UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) investment in the Cambridge NanoPhotonics Centre, as well as EU and Ikerbasque funding that joins the teams together.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Cambridge. The original article is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kevin J. Savage, Matthew M. Hawkeye, Rubén Esteban, Andrei G. Borisov, Javier Aizpurua, Jeremy J. Baumberg. Revealing the quantum regime in tunnelling plasmonics. Nature, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nature11653

Cite This Page:

University of Cambridge. "Quantum kisses change the color of nothing: New ways to measure the world at the scale of single atoms and molecules." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121107132908.htm>.
University of Cambridge. (2012, November 7). Quantum kisses change the color of nothing: New ways to measure the world at the scale of single atoms and molecules. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121107132908.htm
University of Cambridge. "Quantum kisses change the color of nothing: New ways to measure the world at the scale of single atoms and molecules." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121107132908.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
MIT's Robot Cheetah Unleashed — Can Now Run, Jump Freely

MIT's Robot Cheetah Unleashed — Can Now Run, Jump Freely

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — MIT developed a robot modeled after a cheetah. It can run up to speeds of 10 mph, though researchers estimate it will eventually reach 30 mph. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Manufacturer Prints 3-D Car In Record Time

Manufacturer Prints 3-D Car In Record Time

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) — Automobile manufacturer Local Motors created a drivable electric car using a 3-D printer. Printing the body only took 44 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Refurbished New York Subway Tunnel Unveiled After Sandy Damage

Refurbished New York Subway Tunnel Unveiled After Sandy Damage

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 15, 2014) — New York officials unveil subway tunnels that were refurbished after Superstorm Sandy. Nathan Frandino reports. Video provided by Reuters
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