Capturing quasiparticles

Friday 23 October 2009

A physics research team from the University of St Andrews and Cornell University in the USA has managed to ‘photograph’ the traces left by orbiting electrons in a special oxide material, and their observations could form the basis for the future of electronic technology.

These electrons are not restricted to spending their life round a single atom, but are able to collaborate with other electrons to form delicate and transient objects known as ‘quasiparticles’.

In a series of world-firsts published in the journal Nature Physics, the team has produced images of the patterns that these quasiparticles form.

Co-leaders of the project, Professors Andy Mackenzie and Seamus Davis, commented: “This publication is the first from a collaboration that we established in 2006.  The experiment is a bit like zooming in with a camera, but our zoom lens can track details one billionth of a millimetre across.

“The results we have achieved so far are only the tip of the iceberg.  The really exciting thing is the possibilities they open up.  In the long term, we are likely to uncover new properties that will form the basis for future electronic technologies.”

This international collaboration brings together researchers, equipment and ideas from the two universities.  St Andrews research students and scientists have spent long periods working with the microscopes at Cornell, while crystals for the project are grown to order in St Andrews.

Prof. Davis accepted a partial appointment in the Physics & Astronomy department at St Andrews to further cement the co-operation between the two institutions and drive the project forward.

Prof. Mackenzie said “Collaborations like this between the world’s top universities are going to become more and more prominent as we take on deeper challenges.  By working together like this we combine the expertise that has been built up in nearly twenty years of development work in each of the two groups.  We also benefit from talking and sharing ideas, and, most importantly, we enjoy working together very much”.

The St Andrews branch of the research was carried out by the groups of Prof. Mackenzie, Dr. Santiago Grigera and Dr. Felix Baumberger.





Professor Andy Mackenzie is available for interview on 01334 462530
Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
Contact Philippa Dunn, Assistant Press Officer on 01334 462530 / 462529, Mobile: 07730 415015 or Email:
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