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Watching an atom tunnel

, : Watching an atom tunnel. Nature 409(6819): 471-472

In a recent Physical Review Letters (2000;85:4566-69), Lauhon and Ho report that they have tracked and visualized quantum tunneling of individual atoms. Using a scanning tunneling microscope, the researchers monitored the motion of individual H atoms on a metal surface and found that atoms were mobile down to temperatures as low as 9 K. This constant movement of H suggests that there is a quantum effect that permits atoms to tunnel along the metal's surface, which is in defiance of classical physics wherein thermal diffusion or motion is expected to fade away as temperature is lowered.


PMID: 11206530

DOI: 10.1038/35054175

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