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Cold-atom scanning probe microscopy

Abstract

Scanning probe microscopes are widely used to study surfaces with atomic resolution in many areas of nanoscience. Ultracold atomic gases trapped in electromagnetic potentials can be used to study electromagnetic interactions between the atoms and nearby surfaces in chip-based systems. Here we demonstrate a new type of scanning probe microscope that combines these two areas of research by using an ultracold gas as the tip in a scanning probe microscope. This cold-atom scanning probe microscope offers a large scanning volume, an ultrasoft tip of well-defined shape and high purity, and sensitivity to electromagnetic forces (including dispersion forces near nanostructured surfaces). We use the cold-atom scanning probe microscope to non-destructively measure the position and height of carbon nanotube structures and individual free-standing nanotubes. Cooling the atoms in the gas to form a Bose–Einstein condensate increases the resolution of the device.

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Figure 1: Cold-atom SPM.
Figure 2: Magnetic conveyor belt for nanopositioning the cold-atom probe tips near nanostructures.
Figure 3: Contact mode.
Figure 4: Cold-atom SPM image of nanostructures.
Figure 5: Measuring the length of a single nanotube in contact mode.
Figure 6: Measuring the lateral position of a single nanotube in dynamic mode.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank S. Scheel, R. Walser and H. Hölscher for helpful discussions. The project was funded by the BMBF (NanoFutur 03X5506). M.G. acknowledges financial support from the Evangelisches Studienwerk e.V. Villigst, P.S. from the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes, and A.G. and T.E.J. from the Baden-Württemberg RiSC programme.

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Contributions

A.G. and J.F. contributed to the experimental idea and supervised the project. M.G., P.S., A.G. and J.F. designed and set up the experiment. G.V., M.H. and D.P.K. fabricated the nano structures. M.G., P.S. and P.F. performed the experiments. M.G., P.S., T.E.J., A.G. and J.F. analysed the data. All authors discussed the results.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to A. Günther or J. Fortágh.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Gierling, M., Schneeweiss, P., Visanescu, G. et al. Cold-atom scanning probe microscopy. Nature Nanotech 6, 446–451 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2011.80

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