The social life of electrons

By: Caitlin Hayes,  Cornell Research
September 20, 2017

Like human social behavior, the behavior of electrons in relation to each other is difficult to predict. In strongly correlated systems, each electron impacts how those around it act, their orientation and movement, and this leads to diverse behavior in the whole. This Cornell Research story explores this behavior. The unpredictability and diversity, says Eun-Ah Kim, associate professor of physics, is what makes research in the field of condensed matter physics so incredibly rich.

“What’s so exciting is that no matter how much you understand an individual electron as a fundamental particle, you will never be able to predict all the diverse social phenomena electrons can exhibit when they are brought to interact with each other in different ways and when the group is placed in a different environment,” Kim says in the story.

Kim works to understand how various kinds of electron behavior come about and how she can control or predict for highly desirable behaviors such as superconductivity. Superconductivity—the flow of electrons without resistance—could revolutionize energy storage and transport. “We want to try to peep into the secretive social life of electrons to understand their behavior and to control it,” Kim says. “Just like a peaceful nation is desirable, there are desirable behaviors for electrons, which we want to know how to bring about.”

Continue reading the full story on the Cornell Research website .

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