So that I may perceive whatever holds the world together in its inmost folds.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Most physical properties of the matter that surrounds us are governed by electronic states („orbitals, opens an external URL in a new window“) and their interactions. But despite their enormous importance, it proves surprisingly difficult to directly image or measure these orbitals. On the one hand, this is due to quantum mechanics; on the other hand, it is related to the fact that the orbitals feature structures smaller than an atom.

One research focus of USTEM is the development of measurement and imaging techniques to visualize these “sub-atomic” structures. First experimental proof-of-concept results were already published in Ultramicroscopy, opens an external URL in a new window and Physical Review Letters, opens an external URL in a new window.

The ability to directly measure orbitals promises not only new fundamental insights into the structure of matter; it also paves the way for new approaches for material characterization as well as for the development of efficient energy storage devices and efficient chemical reactions.