Los Alamos scientists, working with collaborators from around the world, recently observed experimental evidence of solitary vibrations (solitons) in a solid. First observed as localized waves on the surface of water more than a century ago, the concept of solitons in solids was only theorized as possible two decades ago. The results of their discovery of random localized vibrations in a 3-D solid will add new knowledge to the field of solid-state physics and could have implications for other areas of science and technology.
In research described in this weeks issue of Physical Review Letters, Los Alamos scientist Michael Manley and his colleagues from Oak Ridge and Argonne national laboratories and the Institute for Transuranium Elements in Karlsruhe, Germany describe their use of x-ray and neutron scattering experiments to identify random localized vibrations, called lattice solitons, in uranium crystals at high temperatures, possibly caused by strong electron-phonon interactions.
According to Manley, "these results are really exciting on several levels. Although the idea of a localized energy wave goes back to the late 1800s when solitons were first observed, by the 1980s new theories proposed the possibility of seeing them in discrete solids. Scientists have been looking for localized vibrations in atomic structures ever since. No one ever imagined that they would play such an important role in the physical properties of uranium metal, so this was quite a surprise."
Todd Hanson | EurekAlert!
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