Universal diffraction of atoms and molecules from a quantum reflection grating

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science Advances  18 Mar 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 3, e1500901
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500901


Since de Broglie’s work on the wave nature of particles, various optical phenomena have been observed with matter waves of atoms and molecules. However, the analogy between classical and atom/molecule optics is not exact because of different dispersion relations. In addition, according to de Broglie’s formula, different combinations of particle mass and velocity can give the same de Broglie wavelength. As a result, even for identical wavelengths, different molecular properties such as electric polarizabilities, Casimir-Polder forces, and dissociation energies modify (and potentially suppress) the resulting matter-wave optical phenomena such as diffraction intensities or interference effects. We report on the universal behavior observed in matter-wave diffraction of He atoms and He2 and D2 molecules from a ruled grating. Clear evidence for emerging beam resonances is observed in the diffraction patterns, which are quantitatively the same for all three particles and only depend on the de Broglie wavelength. A model, combining secondary scattering and quantum reflection, permits us to trace the observed universal behavior back to the peculiar principles of quantum reflection.

  • Quantum reflection
  • emerging beam resonance
  • helium dimer
  • matter-wave optics
  • grazing incidence atom optics
  • Rayleigh-Wood anomaly

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science Advances