Matter-wave interference of particles selected from a molecular library with masses exceeding 10 000 amu
The quantum superposition principle, a key distinction between quantum physics and classical mechanics, is often perceived as a philosophical challenge to our concepts of reality, locality or space-time since it contrasts our intuitive expectations with experimental observations on isolated quantum systems. While we are used to associating the notion of localization with massive bodies, quantum physics teaches us that every individual object is associated with a wave function that may eventually delocalize by far more than the body's own extension. Numerous experiments have verified this concept at the microscopic scale but intuition wavers when it comes to delocalization experiments with complex objects. While quantum science is the uncontested ideal of a physics theory, one may ask if the superposition principle can persist on all complexity scales. This motivates matter-wave diffraction and interference studies with large compounds in a three-grating interferometer configuration which also necessitates the preparation of high-mass nanoparticle beams at low velocities. Here we demonstrate how synthetic chemistry allows us to prepare libraries of fluorous porphyrins which can be tailored to exhibit high mass, good thermal stability and relatively low polarizability, which allows us to form slow thermal beams of these high-mass compounds, which can be detected in electron ionization mass spectrometry. We present successful superposition experiments with selected species from these molecular libraries in a quantum interferometer, which utilizes the diffraction of matter waves at an optical phase grating. We observe high-contrast quantum fringe patterns with molecules exceeding a mass of 10 000 amu and 810 atoms in a single particle.