Purdue and Melbourne researchers propose method to image electron wavefunctions
January 1, 2010
Purdue Professor Gerhard Klimeck and a University of Melbourne, Australia, colleague have proposed a novel way to accomplish 3-D mapping of electron wavefunction—the probability that an electron will be in a given position around an atom in a solid—something normally impossible to do.
The technique could add to understanding of how things work at the atomic level, a field called quantum mechanics. A map of electron wavefunctions and their response to an electric field should aid in designing, engineering and manufacturing nanoscale devices a few atoms in size that act quantum mechanically, as well as next-generation microchips and other electronics with nanoscale features.
It also could be useful in advancing quantum computing. Computers taking advantage of quantum properties may have potential for exponential leaps in speed and processing power, for example by being able theoretically to solve all of the permutations of a problem at once.
The technique outlined by Klimeck, former Klimeck student Rajib Rahman, now at Sandia National Laboratories, Seung Park, a student in Klimeck’s lab, and physics Professor Lloyd Hollenberg in Australia employs silicon isotopes and electric and magnetic field control to establish a statistical map or fingerprint of an electron wavefunction.
The researchers already have tested the method’s feasibility in computer models involving more than a million atoms. The modeling was done with NEMO 3-D, software developed by the Klimeck research group to realistically simulate structures one atom at a time.