Engineering 101

Ultra-fast Camera Captures First Atomic View of a Quantum Device in Operation

Researchers used an ultra-fast electron diffraction (UED) camera that detects tiny atomic movements to observe, for the first time, a quantum electronic device in operation. The device is a custom-designed miniature switch made of vanadium dioxide, and the material can change between electrically insulating and conducting states.

The researchers toggled the switches electrically and took snapshots that showed subtle changes in the atomic arrangement over millionths of a second that correlated with the time-dependent flow of electrons through the switch.

The team of scientists from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, and Hewlett Packard Labs observed for the first time the atomic and electronic movements as miniature vanadium dioxide-based switches operated. The approach will enable the creation of next-generation electronic devices that meet the world’s growing needs for data-intensive, intelligent computing.

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