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Quantum Optics

Direct observation of giant molecules

München, 06/03/2019

Physicists at LMU and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics (MPQ) achieved to form giant diatomic molecules and optically detect them afterwards by using a high-resolution objective.

The picture shows an artistic view of the high resolution objective used in the experiment, which is looking at a single plane of atoms in an optical lattice formed by the red laser beams. The right image shows the reconstructed lattice site occupation, where the Rydberg molecules are identified as missing pairs of atoms (red). (Christoph Hohmann, MCQST)

The tiny size of conventional diatomic molecules in the sub-nanometer regime hinders direct optical resolution of their constituents. Physicists from LMU and the Quantum Many Body Division at MPQ led by Prof. Immanuel Bloch were able to bind pairs of highly excited atoms at a distance of one micrometer. The huge bond length — comparable to small biological cells like the E. coli bacteria — allows a microscopic study of the underlying binding structure by directly optically resolving both bound atoms. (Science 2019)

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