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An Atomically Thin Matter-wave Beamsplitter.

C. Brand, M. Sclafani, C. Knobloch, Y. Lilach, T. Juffmann, J. Kotakoski, C. Mangler, A. Winter, A. Turchanin, J. Meyer, O. Cheshnovsky, M. Arndt
Published 2015 · Physics, Medicine

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Matter-wave interferometry has become an essential tool in studies on the foundations of quantum physics and for precision measurements. Mechanical gratings have played an important role as coherent beamsplitters for atoms, molecules and clusters, because the basic diffraction mechanism is the same for all particles. However, polarizable objects may experience van der Waals shifts when they pass the grating walls, and the undesired dephasing may prevent interferometry with massive objects. Here, we explore how to minimize this perturbation by reducing the thickness of the diffraction mask to its ultimate physical limit, that is, the thickness of a single atom. We have fabricated diffraction masks in single-layer and bilayer graphene as well as in a 1 nm thin carbonaceous biphenyl membrane. We identify conditions to transform an array of single-layer graphene nanoribbons into a grating of carbon nanoscrolls. We show that all these ultrathin nanomasks can be used for high-contrast quantum diffraction of massive molecules. They can be seen as a nanomechanical answer to the question debated by Bohr and Einstein of whether a softly suspended double slit would destroy quantum interference. In agreement with Bohr's reasoning we show that quantum coherence prevails, even in the limit of atomically thin gratings.
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