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The quantum future of microscopy: Wave function engineering of electrons, ions, and nuclei

June 11, 2020

The ability to manipulate particles has always been a fundamental aspect for developing and improving scattering and microscopy techniques used for material investigations. So far, microscopy applications have mostly relied on a classical treatment of the electron-matter interaction. However, exploiting a particle's quantum nature can reveal novel information not accessible with conventional schemes. Here, after describing recent methods for coherent wave function engineering, we discuss how quantum manipulation of electrons, He ions, and nuclei can be used to implement low-dose imaging methods, to explore correlated quantum state dynamics in condensed matter, and to modulate nuclear reactions for energy-related applications and gamma-ray lasers.
Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) established itself as a versatile technique for material science,1 optoelectronics,2 condensed matter,3 and biophysics.4 In this broad scope of disciplines, TEM techniques have been used predominantly to extract classical or semi-classical information about the samples—atomic positions, sample orientation, morphology, and composition, together with the spatial distribution of excitations via energy-filtered TEM or cathodoluminescence. In recent years, new methods exploiting the quantum nature of electrons emerged, offering interesting developments of TEM techniques, as well as some unexpected perspectives. In this Letter, we comment on new methods that we find particularly fascinating and propose a few potentially disruptive applications.
An example from the paper:


FIG. 2. (a) Principle of Ramsey holography applied to the spectroscopy of many-body states in solids: the different modes involved in a many-body state responsible for the inelastic interaction with the electrons will manipulate the electron wave function according to their spatial and temporal evolution, redistributing the electron wave function in energy and space. Such a modulation can be detected in the imaging plane of a transmission electron microscopy via energy-filtered electron microscopy (EFTEM), retrieving information on the different states and their mutual coherence at once. (b) An example of a holographic image of plasmon polaritons excited in the Ag/Si3N4 planar structure (scale bar 2 μm). (c) The vertically integrated intensity of the region of interest in panel (b), showing characteristic beatings (background removed). (d) Fourier transform of (c), showing two polariton modes corresponding to polaritons on Ag/Si3N4 and Ag/vacuum interfaces.
 
Reference: Madan, I., Vanacore, G.M., Gargiulo, S., LaGrange, T., and Carbone, F. (2020). The quantum future of microscopy: Wave function engineering of electrons, ions, and nuclei. Appl Phys Lett 116, 230502. (10.1063/1.5143008)

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