New method for imaging electronic orbitals in solids

March 26, 2019

The research teams of Prof. Liu Hao Tjeng from MPI-CPfS, Prof. Maurits Haverkort from the University of Heidelberg (former MPI), and Dr. Andrea Severing from the University of Cologne have conceptualized and tested a new method for making quantum mechanical objects in solids visible at a beamline at the German Electron Synchrotron DESY in Hamburg.

Orbital states are quantum mechanical constructions that describe the probability to find an electron in an atom, molecule or solid.  We know from atomic physics that an s-orbital is spherical or that a p-orbital is dumbbell-shaped, but how do the complicated distributions of the electrons that contribute to chemical bonds in solids look like?  Knowledge of these orbital states or electron distributions is the basis for our understanding of chemical bonds and with this of the physical properties; always with the goal to design materials with specific properties. Here x-ray spectroscopy has contributed tremendously but the interpretation of the spectra is not easy and is often based on some assumptions for the analysis of the data.  Hence it would be great to have an experimental method that gives a direct image of the local electron density.

Such a method has been developed by the research teams of Prof. Liu Hao Tjeng, Prof. Maurits Haverkort and Dr. Andrea Severing.  At the German Electron Synchrotron DESY in Hamburg they have built up an end station that can be used for imaging directly local electron densities without the need for further mathematical analysis.

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