We have developed an electron microscope that produces what is, in many respects, the best near-field optical microscopy in the world.
-Prof. Ido Kaminer
Technion scientists have developed the world’s first quantum microscope that allows the direct observation of light trapped inside a photonic crystal. With such quantum vision, the way is now open to endless breakthroughs in quantum science.
“We have developed an electron microscope that produces, what is in many respects, the best near-field optical microscopy in the world. Using our microscope, we can change the color and angle of light that illuminates any sample of nano materials and map their interactions with electrons, as we demonstrated with photonic crystals,” explains Prof. Ido Kaminer of the Viterbi Faculty of Electrical Engineering and the Solid State Institute.
“This is the first time we can actually see the dynamics of light while it is trapped in nano materials, rather than relying on computer simulations,” added Dr. Kangpeng Wang, a postdoc in the group and first author on the paper which was published in the prestigious journal Nature, entitled: “Coherent Interaction Between Free Electrons and a Photonic Cavity.”
Using the microscope, the scientists were able to change the color and angle of light that illuminates samples of nano materials and map their interactions with electrons. This breakthrough may have an impact on numerous potential applications, including the design of new quantum materials for storing quantum basic units (bits) with greater stability. Similarly, it can help improve the sharpness of colors on cell phones, televisions and other kinds of screens.
“It will have an even wider impact once we investigate more advanced nano/quantum materials. We have an extremely high-resolution microscope and we are starting to explore the next stages,” says Prof. Kaminer. “For example, the most advanced screens in the world today use QLED technology based on quantum dots, making it possible to control color contrast at a much higher definition. The challenge is how to improve the quality of these tiny quantum dots on large surfaces and make them more uniform. This will enhance screen resolution and color contrast even more than current technologies enable.”
At the heart of the breakthrough lies the fact that advances in the research of ultrafast free-electron-light interactions have introduced a new kind of quantum matter – quantum free-electron ‘wavepackets.’
All experiments to date have only focused on light interacting with bound-electron systems – such as atoms, quantum dots, and quantum circuits – which are significantly limited in their fixed energy states, spectral range, and selection rules. Quantum free-electron wavepackets, however, have no such limits. Despite multiple theoretical predictions of exciting new cavity effects with free electrons, no photonic cavity effect has previously been observed for free electrons, due to fundamental limits on the strength and duration of the interaction.
All of the experiments were performed on the ultrafast transmission electron microscope in the Robert and Ruth Magid Electron Beam Quantum Dynamics Laboratory headed by Kaminer. Prof. Ido Kaminer is a faculty member in the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Faculty of Electrical Engineering and the Solid State Institute, and affiliated with the Helen Diller Quantum Center and the Russell Berrie Nanotechology Institute.
Let’s Make a Qubit //Quantum science, and the whole applied field of quantum computing fires the imagination. It wasn’t long before students Ori Reinhardt and Chen Mechel at the Kaminer lab asked about making a qubit – a basic unit of quantum information. “They asked if we can make a qubit from the quantum electron inside our microscope and we managed to prove that it is theoretically doable. We can make a qubit inside a microscope,” says Prof. Ido Kaminer.
Free electrons have their unique advantages that they are not fixed in their energy levels; they are not limited in time scales; and they are not limited in energy ranges – so we can reach into completely new kinds of light-matter interactions and that interaction is done here for the first time. I think fundamentally this is the most exciting part of the research and it’s now successful thanks to an amazing effort by my group.