Jan 7, 2021

Researchers question fundamental study on the Kondo effect

Posted by in categories: computing, particle physics, quantum physics

The Kondo effect influences the electrical resistance of metals at low temperatures and generates complex electronic and magnetic orders. Novel concepts for data storage and processing, such as using quantum dots, are based on this. In 1998, researchers from the United States published spectroscopic studies on the Kondo effect using scanning tunneling microscopy, which are considered ground-breaking and have triggered countless others of a similar kind. Many of these studies may have to be re-examined now that Jülich researchers have shown that the Kondo effect cannot be proven beyond doubt by this method. Instead, another phenomenon is creating precisely the spectroscopic ‘fingerprint’ that was previously attributed to the Kondo effect.

Normally the resistance of metals decreases as the temperature drops. The Kondo effect causes it to rise again below a threshold value typical to the material in question, the so-called Kondo temperature. This phenomenon occurs when magnetic foreign atoms, such as iron, contaminate non-magnetic host metals, such as copper. Simply put, when a current flows, the atomic nuclei are engulfed by electrons. The iron atoms have a quantum mechanical magnetic moment. This causes the electrons in the vicinity to align their spin antiparallel to the moment of the atom at low temperatures and to hang around the cobalt atom like a cloud on a mountaintop. This hinders the flow of the electrons—the electrical resistance then increases. In physics, this is known as entanglement, the strong coupling of the moment of the impurity with the spins of the surrounding electrons.

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