Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Pitt team first to detect exciton in metal


Team gives a microscopic quantum mechanical description of how light excites electrons in metals

University of Pittsburgh researchers have become the first to detect a fundamental particle of light-matter interaction in metals, the exciton. The team will publish its work online June 1 in Nature Physics.

Mankind has used reflection of light from a metal mirror on a daily basis for millennia, but the quantum mechanical magic behind this familiar phenomenon is only now being uncovered.

Physicists describe physical phenomena in terms of interactions between fields and particles, says lead author Hrvoje Petek, Pitt's Richard King Mellon Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy within Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. When light (an electromagnetic field) reflects from a metal mirror, it shakes the metal's free electrons (the particles), and the consequent acceleration of electrons creates a nearly perfect replica of the incident light (the reflection).

The classical theory of electromagnetism provides a good understanding of inputs and outputs of this process, but a microscopic quantum mechanical description of how the light excites the electrons is lacking.

Petek's team of experimental and theoretical physicists and chemists from the University of Pittsburgh and Institute of Physics in Zagreb, Croatia, report on how light and matter interact at the surface of a silver crystal. They observe, for the first time, an exciton in a metal.

Excitons, particles of light-matter interaction where light photons become transiently entangled with electrons in molecules and semiconductors, are known to be fundamentally important in processes such as plant photosynthesis and optical communications that are the basis for the Internet and cable TV. The optical and electronic properties of metals cause excitons to last no longer than approximately 100 attoseconds (0.1 quadrillionth of a second). Such short lifetimes make it difficult for scientists to study excitons in metals, but it also enables reflected light to be a nearly perfect replica of the incoming light.

Yet, Branko Gumhalter at the Institute of Physics predicted, and Petek and his team experimentally discovered, that the surface electrons of silver crystals can maintain the excitonic state more than 100 times longer than the bulk metal, enabling the excitons in metals to be experimentally captured by a newly developed multidimensional coherent spectroscopic technique.

The ability to detect excitons in metals sheds light on how light is converted to electrical and chemical energy in plants and solar cells, and in the future it may enable metals to function as active elements in optical communications. In other words, it may be possible to control how light is reflected from a metal.


The paper, "Transient Excitons at Metal Surfaces," will be published June 1 in the online edition of Nature Physics. The work was supported by a grant from the Division of Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences of the Office of Basic Energy Sciences of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Joseph Miksch | Eurek Alert!

Further reports about: Energy Geosciences Physics electrons exciton excitons mirror particles phenomenon photons technique

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Scientists paint quantum electronics with beams of light
12.10.2015 | University of Chicago

nachricht TRIGA Mainz reaches world record of 20,000 pulses in 50 years
12.10.2015 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Secure data transfer thanks to a single photon

Physicists of TU Berlin and mathematicians of MATHEON are so successful that even the prestigious journal “Nature Communications” reported on their project.

Security in data transfer is an important issue, and not only since the NSA scandal. Sometimes, however, the need for speed conflicts to a certain degree with...

Im Focus: A Light Touch May Help Animals and Robots Move on Sand and Snow

Having a light touch can make a hefty difference in how well animals and robots move across challenging granular surfaces such as snow, sand and leaf litter. Research reported October 9 in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics shows how the design of appendages – whether legs or wheels – affects the ability of both robots and animals to cross weak and flowing surfaces.

Using an air fluidized bed trackway filled with poppy seeds or glass spheres, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology systematically varied the...

Im Focus: Reliable in-line inspections of high-strength automotive body parts within seconds

Nondestructive material testing (NDT) is a fast and effective way to analyze the quality of a product during the manufacturing process. Because defective materials can lead to malfunctioning finished products, NDT is an essential quality assurance measure, especially in the manufacture of safety-critical components such as automotive B-pillars. NDT examines the quality without damaging the component or modifying the surface of the material. At this year's Blechexpo trade fair in Stuttgart, Fraunhofer IZFP will have an exhibit that demonstrates the nondestructive testing of high-strength automotive body parts using 3MA. The measurement results are available in a matter of seconds.

To minimize vehicle weight and fuel consumption while providing the highest level of crash safety, automotive bodies are reinforced with elements made from...

Im Focus: Kick-off for a new era of precision astronomy

The MICADO camera, a first light instrument for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), has entered a new phase in the project: by agreeing to a Memorandum of Understanding, the partners in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, and Italy, have all confirmed their participation. Following this milestone, the project's transition into its preliminary design phase was approved at a kick-off meeting held in Vienna. Two weeks earlier, on September 18, the consortium and the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which is building the telescope, have signed the corresponding collaboration agreement.

As the first dedicated camera for the E-ELT, MICADO will equip the giant telescope with a capability for diffraction-limited imaging at near-infrared...

Im Focus: Locusts at the wheel: University of Graz investigates collision detector inspired by insect eyes

Self-driving cars will be on our streets in the foreseeable future. In Graz, research is currently dedicated to an innovative driver assistance system that takes over control if there is a danger of collision. It was nature that inspired Dr Manfred Hartbauer from the Institute of Zoology at the University of Graz: in dangerous traffic situations, migratory locusts react around ten times faster than humans. Working together with an interdisciplinary team, Hartbauer is investigating an affordable collision detector that is equipped with artificial locust eyes and can recognise potential crashes in time, during both day and night.

Inspired by insects

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

EHFG 2015: Securing healthcare and sustainably strengthening healthcare systems

01.10.2015 | Event News

Conference in Brussels: Tracking and Tracing the Smallest Marine Life Forms

30.09.2015 | Event News

World Alzheimer`s Day – Professor Willnow: Clearer Insights into the Development of the Disease

17.09.2015 | Event News

Latest News

New Oregon approach for 'nanohoops' could energize future devices

13.10.2015 | Life Sciences

Supercoiled DNA is far more dynamic than the 'Watson-Crick' double helix

13.10.2015 | Life Sciences

Breast cancer drug beats superbug

13.10.2015 | Health and Medicine

More VideoLinks >>>