Physicists at the University of Regensburg have achieved a groundbreaking feat by manipulating the quantum state of individual electrons using an atomic force microscope. Published in the journal Nature, their study unveils a novel integration of electron spin resonance into the atomic force microscopy process.
While atomic force microscopy allows for precise imaging of molecules, determining their composition poses challenges. Electron spin resonance, akin to MRI in medicine, aids in deciphering molecular composition but traditionally requires numerous molecules for a detectable signal. However, the Regensburg researchers, led by Prof. Dr. Jascha Repp, have revolutionized this approach.
They directly detected electron spin resonance with the microscope's tip, enabling the characterization of single molecules one by one. This innovation not only identifies the atoms comprising a molecule but also differentiates between molecules with similar atom types but varying isotopes, showcasing remarkable precision.
Beyond composition analysis, the researchers explored a captivating aspect of electron spin resonance – the manipulation of the spin-quantum state of electrons within a molecule. This capability holds significant implications for quantum computing, where maintaining a quantum state without decoherence is paramount.
The team demonstrated that their technique could operate the quantum state of a molecule's spin multiple times before decoherence occurred. Given the microscopic insight into the molecule's neighborhood, this method offers a promising avenue to understand how decoherence in quantum computers is influenced by the atomic-scale environment and, potentially, strategies to mitigate it.
In essence, the marriage of electron spin resonance and atomic force microscopy at the University of Regensburg not only refines our ability to scrutinize individual molecules but also opens doors to advancing quantum computing by providing valuable insights into the intricacies of decoherence at the atomic level.
Source: University of Regensburg