Researchers at Switzerland’s Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne have developed a machine to determine how electrons behave inside a single nano object.

The machine in the school’s quantum optoelectronics laboratory took four years to perfect and represents an equipment investment of more than 1 million Swiss francs.

Scientists say before they developed their machine, even the most sophisticated methods used to explore material properties and dynamics ran into limits when applied at the nanoscale. Current techniques either have good spatial resolution or an ultra fast time resolution, but not both.

The as-yet-unnamed machine can track the passage of an electron in a nanostructure at a time scale of 10 picoseconds and a spatial resolution of 50 nanometers.

Nanotechnology is widely heralded as the key to the technology of the future, with everything from quantum computing to quantum cryptography depending on the behavior and control of materials at the nanoscale.

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