Observations made during the past 30 years indicate that electrons in some solids behave like particles with masses of hundreds to thousands of times larger than those of electrons moving freely in a vacuum. So far, however, scientists were unable to understand how this happens, and lacked the tools to explore the connection between this process and the heavy electron superconductivity.
Recently, a team of researchers has shown how the electrons reach the singular state of extreme heaviness and yet can move with lightning speed in a typical superconductor.
Observing these seemingly contradictory properties of the electrons is fundamental to understanding how certain become superconducting materials, in which electrons can flow without resistance. Materials of this kind, and prove sufficiently practical use could dramatically increase the efficiency of electricity networks and increase the speed of computers.
The new research, conducted by a team of scientists led from Princeton University in New Jersey, USA, has revealed that a process is difficult to measure, known as quantum entanglement, determines the weight of the moving electrons in a crystal , and adjusting the sensitivity of this combination can significantly alter the properties of a material.
If solids are cooled to certain types well below room temperature, the electrons move to act as much heavier particles. Surprisingly, these solids cooled to a temperature close to absolute zero causes them to become superconducting, in which the electrons, despite its weight, create a sort of perfect fluid can flow without loss of electrical energy along the way.
The research team, which included scientists from the U.S. National Laboratory at Los Alamos and the University of California at Irvine, has managed not only to observe the mass gain in electrons, but also show that electrons are actually heavy objects composed of two interlocking shapes of the electron. This entanglement is a result of the laws of quantum mechanics, which govern the way they behave very small particles and allow the particles are intertwined act differently than they do which are not.
The study conducted by the team of Ali Yazdani, who has combined experiments and theoretical models, is the first to show how entanglement from these heavy electrons arises.
The investigation was also worked by Pegor Aynajian, Eduardo da Silva Neto and András Gyenis of Princeton University, Ryan Baumbach, Joseph Thompson and Eric Bauer of the U.S. National Laboratory at Los Alamos in New Mexico, and Zachary Fisk, University of California at Irvine.