Breakthrough measurement of light affecting individual atoms

Dec 10, 2013

Tyndall National Institute and its collaborators are unravelling how atoms vibrate and change when hit with intense bursts of light. The ground-breaking work has been recognised through publication of a paper in Nature Physics.

The collaborative research, led at the Tyndall National Institute by Prof. Stephen Fahy, is currently using x-ray lasers to investigate how natural vibrations of molecules and solids are excited by intense bursts of light. The x-ray laser generates pulses so short that they can capture a snapshot of the moving in less than a billionth of a billionth of a second, which enables researchers to better understand how individual atoms are affected when light is absorbed.

While current studies focus on movement of atoms in germanium, this is the first time that researchers have been able to look at any material in such detail. As the research progresses, it has the potential to revolutionise the speed and capacity of data transfer through optical fibres on the internet and even unlock how atom-level photosynthesis works, with the possibility for it to be replicated to increase energy storage capacity.

Explaining the significance of their research, Prof. Fahy, Materials Theory Group, Tyndall National Institute said: "Understanding and controlling how alters the forces between atoms is central to our understanding of photo-chemistry and underpins many areas of energy science, such as photocatalysis. Tyndall and its collaborators are one of only a few groups worldwide with the ability to measure and calculate such atomic motion and we are delighted to have our work recognised by Nature."

The research paper was co-authored by researchers from SLAC National Research Laboratory, Stanford University, University of Michigan, Oxford University, ETH Zurich, Lund University and the University of Duisburg-Essen under the direction of Prof. David Reis, Stanford University Department of Applied Physics, who was also resident in Tyndall from April to June this year under the SFI Walton Visiting Fellow programme.

Explore further: New filter could advance terahertz data transmission

More information: M. Trigo, M. Fuchs, J. Chen, M. P. Jiang, M. Cammarata, S. Fahy, D. M. Fritz, K. Gaffney, S. Ghimire, A. Higginbotham, S. L. Johnson, M. E. Kozina, J. Larsson, H. Lemke, A. M. Lindenberg, G. Ndabashimiye, F. Quirin, K. Sokolowski-Tinten, C. Uher, G. Wang, J. S. Wark, D. Zhu, D. A. Reis.Nature Physics 9, 790–794 (2013) DOI: 10.1038/nphys2788 Received 14 March 2013 Accepted 11 September 2013 Published online 27 October 2013

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Behavior of ultra-cold atoms and polar molecules modeled

Nov 26, 2013

Theoretical physicist Ana Maria Rey uses the computer, as well as pencil and paper, to develop mathematical models that describe the behavior of ultra-cold atoms. The idea is to use these systems to learn ...

Copper shock: An atomic-scale stress test

Oct 22, 2013

(Phys.org) —Scientists used the powerful X-ray laser at the U.S. Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to create movies detailing trillionths-of-a-second changes in the arrangement ...

Giant atom eats quantum gas

Oct 31, 2013

A team of experimental and theoretical physicists from the University of Stuttgart studied a single micrometer sized atom. This atom contains tens of thousands of normal atoms in its electron orbital. These ...

Recommended for you

New filter could advance terahertz data transmission

Feb 27, 2015

University of Utah engineers have discovered a new approach for designing filters capable of separating different frequencies in the terahertz spectrum, the next generation of communications bandwidth that ...

The super-resolution revolution

Feb 27, 2015

Cambridge scientists are part of a resolution revolution. Building powerful instruments that shatter the physical limits of optical microscopy, they are beginning to watch molecular processes as they happen, ...

A new X-ray microscope for nanoscale imaging

Feb 27, 2015

Delivering the capability to image nanostructures and chemical reactions down to nanometer resolution requires a new class of x-ray microscope that can perform precision microscopy experiments using ultra-bright ...

Top-precision optical atomic clock starts ticking

Feb 26, 2015

A state-of-the-art optical atomic clock, collaboratively developed by scientists from the University of Warsaw, Jagiellonian University, and Nicolaus Copernicus University, is now "ticking away" at the National ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.