Mind-blowing physics reveals electrons travel in “lanes” as they move along quantum wires

Electrons, one of the most fundamental components of our universe, still hold a few secrets that puzzle modern scientists. Since the 1920s, physicists have tried and unravel how these negatively charged particles work, and how they behave in different situations. Now, research conducted at the University of Cambridge has shed new light on a few key factors — the spins and charges of electrons — and reveals even more about their unique behavior.

Background: rotate and charge

In the 1920s, scientists conducted several experiments that showed that electrons possess multiple spins. One of these, the Stern-Gerlach experiment, involved a beam of silver atoms aimed at an uneven magnetic field. The magnetic field split the beam in two, revealing two different spins for the electron.

Mathematically speaking, an electron to spin can be either +1/2 or -1/2, which indicates which direction the spin is taking. Electron spin is important in influencing how an electron interacts with other electrons or behaves in a magnetic field.

Analysis: fast lanes and slow lanes

To learn more about the properties of both electron spin and electron charge, researchers at the University of Cambridge, with the participation of researchers from the University of Frankfurt, propelled electrons to travel through a special wire. What they found was that the charges and spins of the same electron were separated in a fast orbit and a slow orbit.

According to researcher Pedro Vianez “It’s like the cars (like loads) are moving in the slow lane, but their passengers (like spins) are going faster, in the fast lane.” This allows the electron to take the fast and slow lanes at the same time. These two orbits also represent two energy levels, revealing to the electron that it has two different energy levels at the same time.

This strange phenomenon sheds light on other aspects of particle physics. “What’s remarkable here is that we’re no longer talking about electrons, but instead about compound (quasi) particles of spin and change — commonly called spinons and holons, respectively,” Associates explains. Oleksandr Tsyplyatyev from the University of Frankfurt.

Outlook: New Research on Electrons?

“For a long time it was believed that these became unstable at such high energies, but what has been observed points to the exact opposite – they seem to behave in a way very similar to normal, free, stable electrons, each with its own mass, except that they are in fact not electrons, but excitations of a whole sea of ​​charges or spins!” The results of the experiment were published in scientific progress

With the results of the recent research, physicists now have a greater degree of knowledge to work with when studying electron behavior. This study also holds promise regarding the potential for new technological designs in the future, which can help increase electron efficiency in power systems and other electrical devices, as well as in quantum engineering applications.

Kenna Hughes-Castleberry is a staff writer at the Debrief and Science Communicator at JILA (a collaboration between the University of Colorado Boulder and NIST). She focuses on deep tech, the metaverse and quantum technology. You can find more of her work on her website: https://kennacastleberry.com/

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