Diffraction of complex molecules by structures made of light

Phys Rev Lett. 2001 Oct 15;87(16):160401. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.87.160401. Epub 2001 Sep 26.


We demonstrate that structures made of light can be used to coherently control the motion of complex molecules. In particular, we show diffraction of the fullerenes C(60) and C(70) at a thin grating based on a standing light wave. We prove experimentally that the principles of this effect, well known from atom optics, can be successfully extended to massive and large molecules which are internally in a thermodynamic mixed state and which do not exhibit narrow optical resonances. Our results will be important for the observation of quantum interference with even larger and more complex objects.