Mar 13, 2020

Physicists use extreme infrared laser pulses to reveal frozen electron waves in magnetite

Posted by in categories: materials, particle physics

Magnetite is the oldest magnetic material known to humans, yet researchers are still mystified by certain aspects of its properties.

For example, when the temperature is lowered below 125 kelvins, changes from a metal to an insulator, its atoms shift to a new lattice structure, and its charges form a complicated ordered pattern. This extraordinarily complex phase transformation, which was discovered in the 1940s and is known as the Verwey transition, was the first metal-insulator transition ever observed. For decades, researchers have not understood exactly how this phase transformation was happening.

According to a paper published March 9 in Nature Physics, an international team of experimental and theoretical researchers discovered fingerprints of the quasiparticles that drive the Verwey transition in magnetite. Using an , the researchers were able to confirm the existence of peculiar electronic waves that are frozen at the and start “dancing together” in a collective oscillating motion as the temperature is lowered.

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