Physics gets strange when matter gets small. Take electrons orbiting the nucleus of an atom, for example. If they did so with the same dynamics by which planets orbit the sun, classical physics predicts the electrons would spiral toward the nucleus and crash into it in a fraction of a second. But that doesnt happen.
At very low temperatures, classical physics fails to explain phenomena at tiny scales. This is when quantum mechanics kicks in. Scientists are now chilling materials to near absolute zero - so cold that molecules dont move enough to shiver - to study the behavior of electrons in the smallest discrete building blocks of matter, such as single atoms or complex molecules. Then they are looking at those materials in reduced dimensions, which confine the flow of electrons, to study novel quantum states.
3-D is not very interesting because there are no surprises, says Stanford Professor Aharon Kapitulnik, who conducts research in the departments of Applied Physics and Physics. Usually you get new physics when you impose confinement. On Feb. 15 in Denver, Kapitulnik will speak at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science about superconductors, insulators and other novel quantum states in artificially grown materials. Such materials may someday find application in electronic devices, transportation systems and more.
Dawn Levy | EurekAlert!
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