The development of nanotechnology and atom optics relies on understanding how atoms behave and interact with their environment. Isolated atoms can exhibit wavelike (coherent) behavior with a corresponding de Broglie wavelength and phase which can be affected by nearby surfaces. Here an atom interferometer is used to measure the phase shift of Na atom waves induced by the walls of a 50 nm wide cavity. To our knowledge this is the first direct measurement of the de Broglie wave phase shift caused by atom-surface interactions. The magnitude of the phase shift is in agreement with that predicted by Lifshitz theory for a nonretarded van der Waals interaction. This experiment also demonstrates that atom waves can retain their coherence even when atom-surface distances are as small as 10 nm.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)