The precise methodology of Richard Feynman's famous double-slit thought-experiment a cornerstone of quantum mechanics that showed how electrons behave as both a particle and a wave has been followed in full for the very first time.
Although the particle-wave duality of electrons has been demonstrated in a number of different ways since Feynman popularised the idea in 1965, none of the experiments have managed to fully replicate the methodology set out in Volume 3 of Feynman's famous Lectures on Physics.
"The technology to do this experiment has been around for about two decades; however, to do a nice data recording of electrons takes some serious effort and has taken us three years," said lead author of the study Professor Herman Batelaan from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
"Previous double-slit experiments have successfully demonstrated the mysterious properties of electrons, but none have done so using Feynman's methodology, specifically the opening and closing of both slits at will and the ability to detect electrons one at a time.
"Akira Tonomura's brilliant experiment used a thin, charged wire to split electrons and bring them back together again, instead of two slits in a wall which was proposed by Feynman. To the best of my knowledge, the experiments by Guilio Pozzi were the first to use nano-fabricated slits in a wall; however, the slits were covered up by stuffing them with material so could not be open and closed automatically."
In their experiments, which have been published today, Thursday 14 March, in the Institute of Physics and German Physical Society's New Journal of Physics, Batelaan and his team, along with colleagues at the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics, created a modern representation of Feynman's experiment by directing an electron beam, capable of firing individual electrons, at a wall made of a gold-coated silicon membrane.
The wall had two 62-nm-wide slits
|Contact: Michael Bishop|
Institute of Physics