Sub-atomic movement in nanostructures

Nanoscale objects move fast and oscillate billions of times per second. Such movements occur naturally in the form of thermal (Brownian) motion while stimulated movements underpin the functionality of nano-mechanical sensors and active nano-(electro/opto) mechanical devices. Here we introduce a methodology for detecting such movements, based on the spectral analysis of secondary electron emission from moving nanostructures, that is sensitive to displacements of sub-atomic amplitude. We demonstrate the detection of nanowire Brownian oscillations of ~10 pm amplitude and hyperspectral mapping of stimulated oscillations of setae on the body of a common flea. The technique opens a range of opportunities for the study of dynamic processes in materials science, nanotechnology and biology.

Detection of sub-atomic movement in nanostructures
T. Liu, J. Y. Ou, K. F. MacDonald, and N. I. Zheludev, Nanoscale Adv. (2021) doi: 10.1039/d0na01068e – pdf