The Heisenberg uncertainty principle places severe constraints on the subatomic world. To illustrate, for particles called bosons, the principle dictates that bosons either condense to form a superconductor or they must remain localized in an insulator. However, experiments conducted during the last 15 years on thin films have revealed a third possibility: Bosons can exist as a metal. Scientists have been struggling to interpret this surprising result.
Phase diagram showing the destruction of superconductivity: 1) The yellow region represents the ordered phase in which all the electron pairs share the same phase (all arrows pointing up), 2) The elusive bose metal is in blue in which all the phases are disordered but form a glass, and 3)
Beyond the electron pairs fall apart and form an insulator. The vertical axis represents temperature and the in-plane axes any of the tuning parameters that destroy superconductivity such as defects or magnetic field.
"The conventional theory of metals is in crisis," said Philip Phillips, a professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "The observation of a metallic phase for bosons directly contradicts conventional wisdom. A satisfactory explanation requires a new state of matter."
Writing in the Oct. 10 issue of the journal Science, Phillips and Denis Dalidovich -- a former graduate student now working at Florida State University -- analyze the thin-film experiments and offer a new explanation in which the charge-carrying bosons condense into a glass-like, metallic state.
James E. Kloeppel | UIUC
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