Niobium clusters display non-metallic properties at ultra-cold temperatures
The May 23 issue of the journal Science answers that question with an account of the surprising behavior exhibited by nanometer-scale clusters of the metal niobium. When the clusters are cooled to below 20 degrees Kelvin, electrical charges in them suddenly shift, creating structures known as dipoles.
"This is very strange, because no metal is supposed to be able to do this," said Walter de Heer, a professor in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology and co-author of a paper to be published on the topic in Science. "These clusters become spontaneously polarized, with electrons moving to one side of the cluster for no apparent reason. One side of each cluster becomes negatively-charged, and the other side becomes positively-charged. The clusters lock into that behavior and stay that way."
John Toon | EurekAlert!
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