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IBS to Succeed in Observing Single Atomic Properties of Solid Surface for the First Time in the World (October 19)

- IBS researchers published the nuclear spin of atom and measurement of hyperfine interaction in Science.

- It is expected that deepened understanding of magnetism of solid-based materials will contribute to the application of the quantum computing research.


The researchers, led by Andreas Heinrich, professor at Ewha Womans University and Director of the Center for Quantum Nanoscience of IBS (Institute for Basic Science), have developed technology to precisely observe the single atomic properties on the solid surface in collaboration with the IBM Almaden Research Center in the United States.


o The energy of atomic nuclear spin is so weak that the properties were only inferred by reading the signal of millions of nuclei at once to this day.


*Nuclear Spin: Spin refers to the basic unit of magnetism. A nucleus with magnetism can be likened to a bar magnet. It forms a magnetic field by rotating up () and down ().


o The IBS researchers combined the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) with the Electron-Spin Resonance (ESR) to increase the energy resolution (degree of accuracy) by 10,000 times, and were able to diagnose the nuclear spin of a single atom on the body surface as if the internal parts of the body are diagnosed by Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).


o MSIT and IBS announced that the research accomplishments were published in online Science, IF 41.058 at 3 am (Korean time) on October 19th.


It is necessary to reduce the unit for storing information in order to realize next-generation information processing units including a quantum computer and a microcomputer. Nuclear spin is a strong micro-memory candidate, but the exact properties are not discovered.


o This time the researchers succeeded in measuring the nuclear spin of a single atom by combining STM with ESR and confirmed the possibility that a single atom can be used as a memory unit for long-term storage.


*STM is a technology that enables to observe atoms by reading the surface with a sharp metal probe. It is also possible to pick up and locate a single atom like a claw machine.


**ESR is an interaction that pushes and pulls each other between nuclear spin and electron spin, affecting the magnetic properties of an atom.


o In addition, the researchers confirmed that the electromagnetic properties of the device vary according to the atom’s placement on the solid surface. This can be used as a core principle in designing next-generation electronic devices that become individual atomic storage devices and circuits in the future.


The research results can be put to use as the technology that selects materials for quantum computers that store and calculate quantum information. It is also assessed that the results have proposed new directions in designing next-generation solid-based electronic devices where atoms become memories and circuits.


o Director Andreas Heinrich said that “this research holds significance in that it lays the technical foundation for verification of existing physical knowledge based on the multiple atomic properties” and added that “we are proposing research breakthrough in discovering new materials that go beyond existing physical theories”.

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