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An atom chip interferometer that could detect quantum gravity

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Home > Press > An atom chip interferometer that could detect quantum gravity

This is Anupam Mazumdar, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Groningen, co-author of the paper in Science Advances. He aims to develop a test for quantum gravity using atom chips. CREDIT
University of Groningen
This is Anupam Mazumdar, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Groningen, co-author of the paper in Science Advances. He aims to develop a test for quantum gravity using atom chips. CREDIT
University of Groningen

Abstract:
Physicists in Israel have created a quantum interferometer on an atom chip. This device can be used to explore the fundamentals of quantum theory by studying the interference pattern between two beams of atoms. University of Groningen physicist, Anupam Mazumdar, describes how the device could be adapted to use mesoscopic particles instead of atoms. This modification would allow for expanded applications. A description of the device, and theoretical considerations concerning its application by Mazumdar, were published on 28 May in the journal Science Advances.

An atom chip interferometer that could detect quantum gravity


Groningen, the Netherlands | Posted on June 4th, 2021

The device which scientists from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev created is a so-called Stern Gerlach Interferometer, which was first proposed one hundred years ago by German physicists Otto Stern and Walter Gerlach. Their original aim of creating an interferometer with freely propagating atoms exposed to gradients from macroscopic magnets has not been practically realized until now. ‘Such experiments have been done using photons, but never with atoms’, explains Anupam Mazumdar, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Groningen and one of the co-authors of the article in Science Advances.

Diamonds The Israeli scientists, led by Professor Ron Folman, created an interferometer on an atom chip, which can confine and/or manipulate atoms. A beam of rubidium atoms is levitated over the chip using magnets. Magnetic gradients are used to split the beam according to the spin values of the individual atoms. Spin is a magnetic moment that can have two values, either up or down. The spin-up and spin-down atoms are separated by a magnetic gradient. Subsequently, the two divergent beams are brought together again and recombined. The spin values are then measured, and an interference pattern is formed. Spin is a quantum phenomenon, and throughout this interferometer, the opposing spins are entangled. This makes the interferometer sensitive to other quantum phenomena.

Mazumdar was not involved in the construction of the chip, but he contributed theoretical insights to the paper. Together with a number of his colleagues, he previously proposed an experiment to determine whether gravity is in fact a quantum phenomenon using entangled mesoscopic objects, namely tiny diamonds that can be brought in a state of quantum superposition. ‘It would be possible to use these diamonds instead of the rubidium atoms on this interferometer’, he explains. However, this process would be highly complex as the device, which is currently operated at room temperature, would need to be cooled down to around 1 Kelvin for the mesoscopic experiment.

Free fall If this is realized, two of these atom chips could free fall together (to neutralize external gravity), so that any interaction occurring between them would depend on the gravitational pull between the two chips. Mazumdar and his colleagues aim to determine whether quantum entanglement of the pair occurs during free fall, which would mean that the force of gravity between the diamonds is indeed a quantum phenomenon. Another application of this experiment is the detection of gravity waves; their deformation of space-time should be visible in the interference pattern.

The actual implementation of this experiment is still a long way off, but Mazumdar is very excited now that the interferometer has been created. ‘It is already [a] quantum sensor, although we still have to work out exactly what it can detect. The experiment is like the first steps of a baby – now, we have to guide it to reach maturity.’

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Reference: Yair Margalit, Or Dobkowski, Zhifan Zhou, Omer Amit, Yonathan Japha, Samuel Moukouri, Daniel Rohrlich, Anupam Mazumdar, Sougato Bose, Carsten Henkel and Ron Folman: Realization of a complete Stern-Gerlach interferometer: Toward a test of quantum gravity Science Advances, online 28 May 2021.

####

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Nano Technology

New family of atomic-thin electride materials discovered

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Home > Press > New family of atomic-thin electride materials discovered

Yellow isosurfaces on left panel indicate electrons localized in-between the C3 trimers. Ionized structure on the right has no trapped electrons, and some of the M atoms have been largely displaced. This displacement of the M atoms again significantly stabilizes the ionized structure. CREDIT
Soungmin Bae and Hannes Raebiger
Yellow isosurfaces on left panel indicate electrons localized in-between the C3 trimers. Ionized structure on the right has no trapped electrons, and some of the M atoms have been largely displaced. This displacement of the M atoms again significantly stabilizes the ionized structure. CREDIT
Soungmin Bae and Hannes Raebiger

Abstract:
An exploratory investigation into the behavior of materials with desirable electric properties resulted in the discovery of a structural phase of two-dimensional (2D) materials. The new family of materials are electrides, wherein electrons occupy a space usually reserved for atoms or ions instead of orbiting the nucleus of an atom or ion. The stable, low-energy, tunable materials could have potential applications in nanotechnologies.

New family of atomic-thin electride materials discovered


Yokohama, Japan | Posted on June 11th, 2021

The international research team, led by Hannes Raebiger, associate professor in the Department of Physics at Yokohama National University in Japan, published their results on June 10th as frontispiece in Advanced Functional Materials.

Initially, the team set out to better understand the fundamental properties of a 2D system known as Sc2CO2. Containing two atoms of metallic scandium, one atom of carbon and two atoms of oxygens, the system belongs to a family of chemical compounds collectively referred to as MXenes. They are typically composed of a carbon or nitrogen layer one atom thick sandwiched between metal layers, dotted with oxygen or fluorine atoms.

The researchers were particularly interested in MXene Sc2CO2 due to the predictions that, when structured into a hexagonal phase, the system would have desired electrical properties.

“Despite these fascinating predictions of hexagonal phases of Sc2CO2, we are not aware of its successful fabrication as of yet,” said Soungmin Bae, first author and researcher in the Department of Physics at Yokohama National University. “Analyzing its fundamental properties, we discovered a completely new structural phase.”

The new structural phase results in new electride materials. The atomic-thin 2D structural phase is described as tiled shapes forming the central carbon plane. The previously predicted shape was a hexagon, with a carbon atom at every vertex and one in the middle. The new materials have a rhombus-like shape, with electrons at the vertices and a carbon trimer — three carbon atoms in a row — in the middle.

“Carbon is one of the most common materials on our planet, and quite important for living beings, but it is hardly ever found as trimers,” Raebiger said. “The closest place where carbon trimers are typically found is interstellar space.”

The overall shape is less symmetric than the previously described hexagonal structure, but it is more symmetric with regard to the central plane. This structure offers unique characteristics due to the appearance of the new family of electrides, according to Raebiger.

“Electrides contain electrons as a structural unit and often are extremely good electrical conductors,” Raebiger said. “The present family of electrides are insulators, and while most insulators can be made conductive by adding or removing electrons, these materials simply become more insulating.”

MXenes are particularly attractive as a material, because they can be reconfigured with other metallic elements to offer a cornucopia of properties, including tunable conductivity, various forms of magnetism, and/or accelerate chemical reactions as catalysts. On top of this, they are ultra-thin sheets only a few atoms thick, that is, 2D materials. The newly discovered electrides have electrons in lattice voids between atoms and ions, which can be readily emitted into surrounding space, such as the electron sources for large particle accelerators, as well as be borrowed to catalyze a specifically desired chemical reaction.

“We made this discovery because we wanted to understand how these materials work better,” Bae said. “If you encounter something you don’t understand, dig deeper.”

Co-authors include William Espinosa-García and Gustavo M. Dalpian, Centro de Ciências Naturais e Humanas, Universidade Federal do ABC, Brazil; Yoon-Gu Kang and Myung Joon Han, Department of Physics, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; Juho Lee and Yong-Hoon Kim, Department of Electrical Engineering, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; Noriyuki Egawa, Kazuaki Kuwahata and Kaoru Ohno, Department of Physics at Yokohama National University; and Mohammad Khazaei and Hideo Hosono, Materials Research Center for Element Strategy, Tokyo Institute of Technology. Espinosa-García is also affiliated with Grupo de investigación en Modelamienot y Simulación Computacional, Facultad de Ingenierías, Universidad de San Buenaventura-Medellín.

The Iwaki Scholarship Foundation; São Paulo Research Foundation; Korea’s National Research Foundation, Ministry of Science and ICT and Ministry of Education; KAIST (formerly the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology); and Samsung Research Funding & Incubation Center of Samsung Electronics funded this work.

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About Yokohama National University
Yokohama National University (YNU or Yokokoku) is a Japanese national university founded in 1949. YNU provides students with a practical education utilizing the wide expertise of its faculty and facilitates engagement with the global community. YNU’s strength in the academic research of practical application sciences leads to high-impact publications and contributes to international scientific research and the global society.

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Akiko Tsumura

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Molecular coating enhances organic solar cells

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Home > Press > Molecular coating enhances organic solar cells

The team fabricated an organic solar cell that, unlike conventional solar cells, can be easily recycled following the simple steps shown above. Adapted from Lin et al. (2021)
The team fabricated an organic solar cell that, unlike conventional solar cells, can be easily recycled following the simple steps shown above. Adapted from Lin et al. (2021)

Abstract:
An electrode coating just one molecule thick can significantly enhance the performance of an organic photovoltaic cell, KAUST researchers have found. The coating outperforms the leading material currently used for this task and may pave the way for improvements in other devices that rely on organic molecules, such as light-emitting diodes and photodetectors.

Molecular coating enhances organic solar cells


Thuwal, Saudi Arabia | Posted on June 11th, 2021

Unlike the most common photovoltaic cells that use crystalline silicon to harvest light, organic photovoltaic cells (OPVs) rely on a light-absorbing layer of carbon-based molecules. Although OPVs cannot yet rival the performance of silicon cells, they could be easier and cheaper to manufacture at a very large scale using printing techniques.

When light enters a photovoltaic cell, its energy frees a negative electron and leaves behind a positive gap, known as a hole. Different materials then gather the electrons and holes and guide them to different electrodes to generate an electrical current. In OPVs, a material called PEDOT:PSS is widely used to ease the transfer of generated holes into an electrode; however, PEDOT:PSS is expensive, acidic and can degrade the cell’s performance over time.

The KAUST team has now developed a better alternative to PEDOT:PSS. They use a much thinner coating of a hole-transporting molecule called Br-2PACz, which binds to an indium tin oxide (ITO) electrode to form a single-molecule layer. The organic cell using Br-2PACz achieved a power conversion efficiency of 18.4 percent, whereas an equivalent cell using PEDOT:PSS reached only 17.5 percent.

“We were very surprised indeed by the performance enhancement,” says Yuanbao Lin, Ph.D. student and member of the team. “We believe Br-2PACz has the potential to replace PEDOT:PSS due to its low cost and high performance.”

Br-2PACz increased the cell’s efficiency in several ways. Compared with its rival, it caused less electrical resistance, improved hole transport and allowed more light to shine through to the absorbing layer. Br-2PACz also improved the structure of the light-absorbing layer itself, an effect that may be related to the coating process.

The coating could even improve the recyclability of the solar cell. The researchers found that the ITO electrode could be removed from the cell, stripped of its coating and then reused as if it was new. In contrast, PEDOT:PSS roughens the surface of the ITO so that it performs poorly if reused in another cell. “We anticipate this will have a dramatic impact on both the economics of OPVs and the environment,” says Thomas Anthopoulos, who led the research.

####

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Copyright © King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

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Researchers turned transparent calcite into artificial gold

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Home > Press > Researchers turned transparent calcite into artificial gold

Figure shows 3D reconstruction of the golden vaterite and the laser-induced heating of the spherulites. CREDIT
Tel Aviv University
Figure shows 3D reconstruction of the golden vaterite and the laser-induced heating of the spherulites. CREDIT
Tel Aviv University

Abstract:
Breakthrough in metamaterials: for the first time in the world, researchers at Tel Aviv University developed an innovative nanotechnology that transforms a transparent calcite nanoparticle into a sparkling gold-like particle. In other words, they turned the transparent particle into a particle that is visible despite its very small dimensions. According to the researchers the new material can serve as a platform for innovative cancer treatments.

Researchers turned transparent calcite into artificial gold


Tel Aviv, Israel | Posted on June 11th, 2021

In a new paper published in Advanced Materials, an international team of scientists, coordinated by Dr. Roman Noskov and Dr. Pavel Ginzburg from the Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering at Tel Aviv University, Prof. Dmitry Gorin from the Center for Photonics and Quantum Materials at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) and Dr. Evgeny Shirshin from M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, has introduced the concept of biofriendly delivery of optical resonances via a mesoscopic metamaterial, a material with properties that are not found in nature. This approach opens promising prospects for multifunctionality in biomedical systems, allowing the use of a single designer-made nanoparticle for sensing, photothermal therapy, photoacoustic tomography, bioimaging, and targeted drug delivery.

“This concept is the result of cross-disciplinary thinking at the interface between the physics of metamaterials and bioorganic chemistry, aiming to meet the needs of nanomedicine. We were able to create a mesoscopic submicron metamaterial from biocompatible components that demonstrates strong Mie resonances covering the near-infrared spectral window in which biological tissues are transparent,” says Dr. Roman Noskov.

The nanostructures capable of nanoscale light localization as well as performing several functions are highly desirable in a plethora of biomedical applications. However, biocompatibility is typically a problem, as engineering of optical properties often calls for using toxic compounds and chemicals. The researchers have resolved this issue by employing gold nanoseeds and porous vaterite (calcium carbonate) spherulites, currently considered promising drug-delivery vehicles. This approach involves controllable infusion of gold nanoseeds into a vaterite scaffold resulting in a mesoscopic metamaterial – golden vaterite – whose resonance properties can be widely tuned by changing the quantity of gold inside the vaterite. Additionally, high payload capacity of vaterite spherulites allows simultaneous loading of both drugs and fluorescent tags. To exemplify the performance of their system, the researchers demonstrated efficient laser heating of golden vaterite at red and near?infrared wavelengths, highly desirable in photothermal therapy, and photoacoustic tomography.

Prof. Pavel Ginzburg summarizes: “This novel platform enables the accommodation of multiple functionalities – as simple add-ons that can be introduced almost on demand. Alongside optical imaging and thermotherapy, MRI visibility, functional biomedical materials and many other modalities can be introduced within a miniature nano-scale particle. I believe that our collaborative efforts will lead to in-vivo demonstrations, which will pave the way for a new biomedical technology.”

####

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Noga Shahar
054-770-5223

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Nano Technology

New family of atomic-thin electride materials discovered

Published

on

Home > Press > New family of atomic-thin electride materials discovered

Yellow isosurfaces on left panel indicate electrons localized in-between the C3 trimers. Ionized structure on the right has no trapped electrons, and some of the M atoms have been largely displaced. This displacement of the M atoms again significantly stabilizes the ionized structure. CREDIT
Soungmin Bae and Hannes Raebiger
Yellow isosurfaces on left panel indicate electrons localized in-between the C3 trimers. Ionized structure on the right has no trapped electrons, and some of the M atoms have been largely displaced. This displacement of the M atoms again significantly stabilizes the ionized structure. CREDIT
Soungmin Bae and Hannes Raebiger

Abstract:
An exploratory investigation into the behavior of materials with desirable electric properties resulted in the discovery of a structural phase of two-dimensional (2D) materials. The new family of materials are electrides, wherein electrons occupy a space usually reserved for atoms or ions instead of orbiting the nucleus of an atom or ion. The stable, low-energy, tunable materials could have potential applications in nanotechnologies.

New family of atomic-thin electride materials discovered


Yokohama, Japan | Posted on June 11th, 2021

The international research team, led by Hannes Raebiger, associate professor in the Department of Physics at Yokohama National University in Japan, published their results on June 10th as frontispiece in Advanced Functional Materials.

Initially, the team set out to better understand the fundamental properties of a 2D system known as Sc2CO2. Containing two atoms of metallic scandium, one atom of carbon and two atoms of oxygens, the system belongs to a family of chemical compounds collectively referred to as MXenes. They are typically composed of a carbon or nitrogen layer one atom thick sandwiched between metal layers, dotted with oxygen or fluorine atoms.

The researchers were particularly interested in MXene Sc2CO2 due to the predictions that, when structured into a hexagonal phase, the system would have desired electrical properties.

“Despite these fascinating predictions of hexagonal phases of Sc2CO2, we are not aware of its successful fabrication as of yet,” said Soungmin Bae, first author and researcher in the Department of Physics at Yokohama National University. “Analyzing its fundamental properties, we discovered a completely new structural phase.”

The new structural phase results in new electride materials. The atomic-thin 2D structural phase is described as tiled shapes forming the central carbon plane. The previously predicted shape was a hexagon, with a carbon atom at every vertex and one in the middle. The new materials have a rhombus-like shape, with electrons at the vertices and a carbon trimer — three carbon atoms in a row — in the middle.

“Carbon is one of the most common materials on our planet, and quite important for living beings, but it is hardly ever found as trimers,” Raebiger said. “The closest place where carbon trimers are typically found is interstellar space.”

The overall shape is less symmetric than the previously described hexagonal structure, but it is more symmetric with regard to the central plane. This structure offers unique characteristics due to the appearance of the new family of electrides, according to Raebiger.

“Electrides contain electrons as a structural unit and often are extremely good electrical conductors,” Raebiger said. “The present family of electrides are insulators, and while most insulators can be made conductive by adding or removing electrons, these materials simply become more insulating.”

MXenes are particularly attractive as a material, because they can be reconfigured with other metallic elements to offer a cornucopia of properties, including tunable conductivity, various forms of magnetism, and/or accelerate chemical reactions as catalysts. On top of this, they are ultra-thin sheets only a few atoms thick, that is, 2D materials. The newly discovered electrides have electrons in lattice voids between atoms and ions, which can be readily emitted into surrounding space, such as the electron sources for large particle accelerators, as well as be borrowed to catalyze a specifically desired chemical reaction.

“We made this discovery because we wanted to understand how these materials work better,” Bae said. “If you encounter something you don’t understand, dig deeper.”

Co-authors include William Espinosa-García and Gustavo M. Dalpian, Centro de Ciências Naturais e Humanas, Universidade Federal do ABC, Brazil; Yoon-Gu Kang and Myung Joon Han, Department of Physics, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; Juho Lee and Yong-Hoon Kim, Department of Electrical Engineering, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; Noriyuki Egawa, Kazuaki Kuwahata and Kaoru Ohno, Department of Physics at Yokohama National University; and Mohammad Khazaei and Hideo Hosono, Materials Research Center for Element Strategy, Tokyo Institute of Technology. Espinosa-García is also affiliated with Grupo de investigación en Modelamienot y Simulación Computacional, Facultad de Ingenierías, Universidad de San Buenaventura-Medellín.

The Iwaki Scholarship Foundation; São Paulo Research Foundation; Korea’s National Research Foundation, Ministry of Science and ICT and Ministry of Education; KAIST (formerly the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology); and Samsung Research Funding & Incubation Center of Samsung Electronics funded this work.

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About Yokohama National University
Yokohama National University (YNU or Yokokoku) is a Japanese national university founded in 1949. YNU provides students with a practical education utilizing the wide expertise of its faculty and facilitates engagement with the global community. YNU’s strength in the academic research of practical application sciences leads to high-impact publications and contributes to international scientific research and the global society.

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