Quantum Atomic Tunneling

Democritus, the fifth century B.C. Greek philosopher, first postulated atoms to be the fundamental building blocks of the visible world. Since then, many advances in science have been driven by man's attempts to understand these atoms.

The advent of the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM), an invention for which Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer recieved the 1986 Nobel Prize, has greatly increased our knowledge of how atoms build up matter. It's beautiful images at atomic resolution give a poignant demonstration of Democritus' hypothesis.

An exciting new development has been the ability to directly manipulate atoms with an STM, and so to form man-made structures at an atomic scale such as the Cornell University National Nanofabrication Facility logo shown below

The lines are only a few atoms wide, and are made with BEEM, an STM based technology.

Here at LASSP, we are intrigued by the possibility of using these techniques to understand fundamental aspects of Quantum Mechanics such as the influence of a dissipative environment on Schroedinger's cat. Specifically, we have calculated the effect of phonons (lattice vibrations) on the behavior of an atom tunneling from an STM tip to a surface and back, a simplified cousin of the aforementioned feline enigma.

Our Research

Click here to find out more about our research. An outline is shown below:

Outline of our work:

Outline of files linked to this research


What do you think?

Thank you for reading all the way down the page. We hope you enjoyed getting to know a little more about what interests us here at Cornell. To see other Web pages on science done here at the Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics, , click here. If you have any comments, suggestions or criticisms, please e-mail :

This research was paid for by YOUR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT through the National Science Foundation (NSF under Grant No. DMR-19-18065).
Last modified: June 4, 1994

Ard Louis