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Scientists Turn a Hydrogen Molecule Into a Quantum Sensor


UC Irvine team members Dan Bai, Professor Wilson Ho, Yunpeng Xia, and Likun Wang

The UC Irvine team with the terahertz laser-equipped scanning tunneling microscope they assembled are (left to right) Ph.D. student Dan Bai, Professor Wilson Ho, Ph.D. student Yunpeng Xia, and Ph.D. candidate Likun Wang.

Credit: Steve Zylius / UC Irvine

Physicists at the University of California, Irvine have demonstrated the use of a hydrogen molecule as a quantum sensor in a terahertz laser-equipped scanning tunneling microscope (STM), a technique that can measure the chemical properties of materials at unprecedented time and spatial resolutions.

The technique can also be applied to analysis of two-dimensional materials which have the potential to play a role in advanced energy systems, electronics, and quantum computers.

The researchers describe their work in the journal Science. "This project represents an advance in both the measurement technique and the scientific question the approach allowed us to explore," says co-author Wilson Ho.

The ability to characterize materials at this level of detail based on hydrogen's quantum coherence can be of great use in the science and engineering of catalysts, since their functioning often depends on surface imperfections at the scale of single atoms, according to Ho.

From University of California, Irvine
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