Quantum Study Reveals Potential for Sensing at the Nanoscale

Particles at the nanoscale act as the building blocks of quantum science—just small enough to enable scientists to tweak major properties of materials with maximum precision. One nanometer equals a billionth of a meter, a millionth of a millimeter, and a thousandth of a micrometer. The average sheet of paper, for example, runs about 100,000 nanometers thick.

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“Our goal was to define the state of the art and to consider what’s been done and where we need to go,” says Ali Passian, an ORNL senior research scientist and senior author of the study.

Support for this work came from the Biological and Environmental Research program in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science and from Northern Ireland’s Department of Economy through a U.S.-Ireland R&D partnership grant.

“People are working hard to push the limits of detection and create new measurement modalities,” Passian says. “I think the next few years will be exciting in terms of materialization and user-friendly implementation of these techniques toward achieving quantum nanometrology of surfaces and the subsurface regions.”

Breakthrough tools like the scanning probe microscope, which uses a sharp-tipped probe to inspect samples at the atomic level, have helped speed advances in the nanometrology of surfaces. Subsurface studies have achieved fewer comparable breakthroughs, the authors note.

Passian and co-author Amir Payam of Ulster University suggest the nanoscale level may be not only where intricate molecular assemblies of biological systems such as cell membranes form but also where the dimensions of emerging materials such as metasurfaces and quantum materials align. So far, it’s an underexplored opportunity, they conclude.

(ORNL: Oak Ridge, TN) — A new nanoscience study led by a researcher at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory takes a big-picture look at how scientists study materials at the smallest scales.

Published: Wednesday, September 13, 2023 – 11:58


Quantum Study Reveals Potential for Sensing at the Nanoscale

Quantum nanometrology just got a step closer

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The University of Tennessee-Battelle manages ORNL for the Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. The Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.