Jul 4, 2021

A crystal made of electrons

Posted by in categories: particle physics, quantum physics

Researchers at ETH Zurich have succeeded in observing a crystal that consists only of electrons. Such Wigner crystals were already predicted almost ninety years ago but could only now be observed directly in a semiconductor material.

Crystals have fascinated people through the ages. Who hasn’t admired the complex patterns of a snowflake at some point, or the perfectly symmetrical surfaces of a rock crystal? The magic doesn’t stop even if one knows that all this results from a simple interplay of attraction and repulsion between atoms and electrons. A team of researchers led by Ataç Imamoğlu, professor at the Institute for Quantum Electronics at ETH Zurich, have now produced a very special crystal. Unlike normal crystals, it consists exclusively of electrons. In doing so, they have confirmed a that was made almost ninety years ago and which has since been regarded as a kind of holy grail of condensed matter physics. Their results were recently published in the scientific journal Nature.

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