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Curated by RSF Research Staff

Scientists get First Direct Look at How Electrons ‘Dance’ with Vibrating Atoms

The vibrational energy due to oscillating atoms in a crystal lattice is known as a phonon. These vibrations – or phonons - are determined by the specific atom and its associated atomic bond, generating heat and sound as this quantum of vibrational energy propagates though the material.

Electrons travelling through a material can experience resistance depending on the metallicity and its impurities, which effects the conductive process. However, when electrons couple to the vibrational mechanical energy – known as electron-phonon coupling - they are able to collectively move through the material in a coherent fashion.

A team at Stanford utilizing the SLAC (Stanford Linear Accelerator Center) National Accelerator Laboratory have now made the first direct measurements of this electron-phonon coupling. Using iron selenide - a material known for its unique conductive properties in that it conducts electricity without loss and at extremely cold temperatures – they were able to combine measurements of atomic vibration and electron energy such that the electron-phonon coupling could be observed with unprecedented precision.

Understanding electron-phonon coupling and its relationship to superconductivity not only reveals new insights into the physics of material science, but as well allows for subsequent optimization and advancements in superconductivity.


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