Matter-wave interferometry with atoms1 and molecules2 has attracted a rapidly growing level of interest over the past two decades, both in demonstrations of fundamental quantum phenomena and in quantum-enhanced precision measurements. Such experiments exploit the non-classical superposition of two or more position and momentum states that are coherently split and rejoined to interfere3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. Here, we present the experimental realization of a universal near-field interferometer built from three short-pulse single-photon ionization gratings12, 13. We observe quantum interference of fast molecular clusters, with a composite de Broglie wavelength as small as 275 fm. Optical ionization gratings are largely independent of the specific internal level structure and are therefore universally applicable to different kinds of nanoparticle, ranging from atoms to clusters, molecules and nanospheres. The interferometer is sensitive to fringe shifts as small as a few nanometres and yet robust against velocity-dependent phase shifts, because the gratings exist only for nanoseconds and form an interferometer in the time domain.
At a glance
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