For more than half a century, a particular theory about the behavior of electrons in atoms has puzzled scientists.
Now a group of researchers from the University of Hamburg’s physics department has finally found proof that this theory is actually true.
The results have just been published in the journal Natureand they could be the key to making our electronic devices much smaller and more powerful, including boosting the potential of quantum computing.
Normally, electrons don’t like to get too close to each other because they are both negatively charged.
Imagine two magnets with like poles facing each other – they repel each other. This pushing away of electrons has a major impact on how materials conduct electricity.
That’s one of the reasons we need things like batteries and plugs; We have to push the electricity because the electrons slow it down.
But what if we could get the electrons to pair up like a buddy system? According to the theory, once they mate, they start behaving differently.
They no longer push each other away and can even move together in the same movement.
The researchers succeeded, and when electrons behave this way, the material they are in can conduct electricity without slowing it down. This is known as superconductivity and is used in many technologies, such as MRI machines in hospitals.
In order to achieve this, the team around private lecturer Dr. Jens Wiebe trapped electrons in tiny cages made of silver atoms. Imagine a mini zoo without electrons!
These cages were placed on the surface of a superconductor, a material that already allows electrons to flow freely.
The trapped electrons began to behave like their free-moving neighbors and form pairs, just as theory predicted.
The discovery confirmed what Japanese theorists Kazushige Machida and Fumiaki Shibata had predicted in the early 1970s. They said that under certain conditions, electrons would pair up, creating a specific energy signature.
The German researchers found exactly this energy signature and thus proved that the theory was right from the start. In fact, Machida was thrilled that his theory was finally being proven.
He said: “I thought for a long time that it was impossible to prove its existence, but with your ingenious method you finally experimentally verified its correctness.”
Not only is this an exciting discovery for scientists; it has real applications.
The researchers say understanding how to induce pairs of electrons in tiny structures could lead to advances in nanotechnology and quantum computing.
Other studies have already shown that this specific behavior of electrons can make quantum computers more stable and less noisy, which is a big thing for the future of computing.
Put simply: after 50 years of waiting, science has caught up with theory. This discovery not only solves an old mystery; It opens the door to new technological advances that could transform our lives.
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