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quantum mirage

The term quantum mirage refers to a phenomenon that may make it possible to transfer data without conventional electrical wiring. Instead of forcing charge carriers through solid conductors, a process impractical on a microscopic scale, electron wave phenomena are made to produce effective currents. Leading the research are physicists Donald Eigler, Hari Manoharan, and Christopher Lutz of the IBM facility in San Jose, California.

All moving particles have a wavelike nature. This is rarely significant on an everyday scale. But in atomic dimensions, where distances are measured in nanometer s (nm), moving particles behave like waves. This phenomenon is what makes the electron microscope workable. It is of interest to researchers in nanotechnology , who are looking for ways to deliver electric currents through circuits too small for conventional wiring.

A quantum mirage is a spot where electron waves are focused so they reinforce each other. The result is an energy hot zone, similar to the acoustical hot zones observed in concrete enclosures, or the electromagnetic wave focus of a dish antenna . In the case of electron waves, the enclosure is called a quantum corral. An elliptical corral produces mirages at the foci of the ellipse. A typical quantum corral measures approximately 20 nm long by 10 nm wide. By comparison, the range of visible wavelengths is approximately 390 nm (violet light) to 750 nm (red light). One nanometer is 10 -9 meter, or a millionth of a millimeter.

This was last updated in September 2005

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