UC Berkeley team uses STM to measure single atom spin

from the in-a-spin dept.
A research team at the University of California at Berkeley has built a scanning tunneling microscope that can measure for the first time the quantum spin of an electronic state of a single atom, in this case an impurity atom embedded in the material. Previously, scientists have had to trap isolated atoms and zap them with a laser to measure their spin state. While the technique already has improved understanding of high temperature superconductors, it also can help probe the spin states of atoms in metals and semiconductors, as well as new materials such as carbon nanotubes or strontium ruthenate superconductors. The researchers also believe their work has potential application in quantum computers. It is thought that quantum computers could take advantage of two-level quantum states such as this to perform calculations far faster than conventional transistor-based computers, and in the process shrink the size of computers immensely. "One of the holy grails of solid state physics is to write and store information in just one atom," said J. C. Seamus Davis, the head of the Berkeley team.

More information is available on the research teamís website.

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