Atomic matter waves have been generating a bit of interest of late. The thinking is that atom waves can be manipulated in much the same way as light waves and so could be used to directly print atoms onto microchips to create nanoscale features.
The question is: how small can these features be made and how accurately can they be put in place? An obvious answer is that these features can’t be smaller than the size of the atoms involved and placed no more accurately than the size of the wavelength of these atom ie diffraction limited. And until a few years ago, nobody would have argued with that.
Since then, numerous techniques have been been developed for manipulating light beyond the diffraction limit so it’s reasonable to assume that a similar thing can be done with matter waves.
And so it has come to pass. Jordi Mompart at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona in Spain and a few amigos have shown that it is possible to achieve single nanometre resolution with matter waves of rubidium. At least in theory.
All we need now is somebody to step up to the plate and do it for real. Judging by the speed of progress in this field right now, that shouldn’t take long.
And beyond that: the first microchips patterned using matter waves rather than light?
Ref: http://arxiv.org/abs/0811.3409: Coherent Patterning of Matter Waves with Subwavelength Localization