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Behavior of Building Block of Nature Could Lead to Computer Revolution


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Physicists from the Universities of Cambridge and Birmingham have demonstrated that electrons in narrow wires can split into two new particles called spinons and holons. Like-charged electrons repel each other and must adjust their movements to avoid getting too close to each other, and this effect is exacerbated in extremely narrow wires. It was theorized in 1981 that under these conditions and at the lowest temperatures the electrons would be permanently divided into spinons and holons. Accomplishing this required confining electrons in a quantum wire that is brought in close enough proximity to an ordinary metal so that the electrons in the metal could "jump" into the wire by quantum tunneling.

The Cambridge and Birmingham physicists observed how the electron, on penetrating the quantum wire, split into spinons and holons by watching how the rate of jumping varied with an applied magnetic field.

"Quantum wires are widely used to connect up quantum 'dots,' which may in the future form the basis of . . . a quantum computer," notes Chris Ford with the University of Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory. "Thus understanding their properties may be important for such quantum technologies, as well as helping to develop more complete theories of superconductivity and conduction in solids in general. This could lead to a new computer revolution."

From University of Cambridge
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