Wave properties of particles can manifest in collisions

November 2, 2017, National Research Tomsk State University
Physicists: The wave properties of particles can manifest in collisions
Physicists has shown that it is possible to observe the wave properties of massive particles at room temperature, in practically any modern physics laboratory, because it is only necessary to focus the beam of particles well. Credit: TSU

Dmitry Karlovets, senior researcher at the TSU Faculty of Physics, and Valery Serbo from the Institute of Mathematics of the SB RAS have shown that it is possible to observe the wave properties of massive particles at room temperature in practically any modern physics laboratory—it is only necessary to precisely focus the beam of particles. The results of the theoretical research were published in Physical Review Letters.

Usually the wave properties of particles are well-manifested in experiments at low temperatures, for example, in the phenomenon of superconductivity. Because of the necessity to cool the particles, research on the wave nature of matter has been quite expensive. "We found a way to perform an experiment in which the wave properties of the particles occur at . For this, nothing needs to be cooled, it's just good to focus the beam," explains Dmitry Karlovets.

According to the theoretical physicists, the electron beam needs to be focused into a spot the size of a hydrogen atom. In this case, modern electronic microscopes are sufficient, and are widely available in many scientific centers, including TSU.

"Earlier, scientists thought that the wave properties of particles at room temperature would manifest themselves when focusing into the so-called Compton wavelength. For an electron, this is about 10-13 meters. The size of the hydrogen atom is three orders of magnitude greater, 0.5 * 10-10 meters. This resolution has already been achieved at the University of Antwerp in Belgium," says Dmitry Karlovets.

Further, physicists have shown that the wave properties of particles will manifest themselves particularly clearly if the electrons are in special quantum states. In quantum optics, scientists are able to create microscopic analogs of Schrödinger's cat, a well-known mental experiment about a cat in a closed box with poison. While the cat is unobserved, it is in a state of superposition, in which it is both alive and dead. So it is with waves: When two electron beams are superimposed on each other, they can interfere, that is, either amplify or extinguish each other. In the area of space where destructive interference occurs, the probability for an electron to have a certain coordinate and momentum becomes negative. It is a property inexplicable in the language of classical physics.

"If you shine a simple on an atom, then the electrons begin to dissipate, absorb, or do something else. And if we focus such a 'cat' (two superimposed beams) on a hydrogen atom, then in the area between the beams, the atom reacts differently because there is ," says Dmitry Karlovets. "This leads to a change in the properties of the scattered electrons and can be observed experimentally." Thus, focusing the electrons on the hydrogen atom allows researchers to study purely quantum effects in the collision of that have never been observed in particle physics.

Explore further: Researchers see unexplained phase shifts during atomic scattering

More information: Dmitry V. Karlovets et al, Possibility to Probe Negative Values of a Wigner Function in Scattering of a Coherent Superposition of Electronic Wave Packets by Atoms, Physical Review Letters (2017). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.119.173601

Related Stories

Watching an electron being born

May 15, 2012

Atomic processes take place on extremely short time scales. Measurements at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna) can now visualize these processes.

Researchers discover a way to generate an electron Airy beam

February 22, 2013

(Phys.org)—A team of physicists in Israel has succeeded in generating an electron Airy beam for the first time. As they describe in their paper published in the journal Nature, the researchers used a technique similar to ...

Emerging from the vortex

February 17, 2012

Whether a car or a ball, the forces acting on a body moving in a straight line are very different to those acting on one moving in tight curves. This maxim also holds true at microscopic scales. As such, a beam of electrons ...

Electron microscopes with a twist

November 5, 2012

Vortex beams, rotating like a tornado, offer completely new possibilities for electron microscopy. A method of producing extremely intense vortex beams has been discovered at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna).

Snapshots of atoms make it into physics textbooks

June 6, 2014

Physicist Aneta Stodólna captured the electron positions of hydrogen atoms on camera for the very first time. The snapshots from her quantum-style microscope gained worldwide attention and even made it into physics textbooks. ...

Recommended for you

The secret to measuring the energy of an antineutrino

June 18, 2018

Scientists study tiny particles called neutrinos to learn about how our universe evolved. These particles, well-known for being tough to detect, could tell the story of how matter won out over antimatter a fraction of a second ...

Quantum transfer at the push of a button

June 15, 2018

In new quantum information technologies, fragile quantum states have to be transferred between distant quantum bits. Researchers at ETH have now realized such a quantum transmission between two solid-state qubits at the push ...


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.