Fattening electrons at will

Discussion in 'Physics & Math' started by Plazma Inferno!, Aug 30, 2016.

  1. Plazma Inferno! Ding Ding Ding Ding Administrator

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    An international team of researchers – including a team from Trinity College Dublin (TCD) – has discovered what it is calling a breakthrough in fundamental physics that allows it to turn the mass of an object on or off at will.
    After some experimentation with an exotic mineral, the team was astonished to find that, with help from an external stimulus, the object’s electron mass could be switched on or off like a light switch.
    Marking the first discovery of an object whose mass can be switched on or off, it’s hoped that this will mark the starting point for new work in high-energy physics.
    According to the team’s research paper, they had wanted to examine what happened to the current passing through the exotic material zirconium pentatelluride (ZrTe5) when exposed to a very high magnetic field.
    ZrTe5 is quite unique in the sense that, in the absence of a magnetic field, the current flows easily through the mineral because the electrons responsible for the current have no mass.
    Yet when a magnetic field of 60 Tesla is applied – more than 1m-times more intense than our own planet’s magnetic field – the current drastically reduces, resulting in ZrTe5 acquiring mass because of ‘fattening’ electrons.After some experimentation with an exotic mineral, the team was astonished to find that, with help from an external stimulus, the object’s electron mass could be switched on or off like a light switch.

    https://www.siliconrepublic.com/innovation/physics-tcd-electron-breakthrough

    Paper: http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms12516
     
    joepistole likes this.
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  3. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Yeah, this is misleading, of course! Nobody is really switching mass on and off.

    What it seems they are doing is inducing a phase transition in something called a Dirac semi-metal, which has conduction behaviour due to what are called "Dirac electrons". I had to look this up, but there is a sort of explanation here: http://www.spinograph.org/blog/what-heck-dirac-electron

    So, a bit as with superconductivity, one can get anomalous behaviour that looks as if these electrons are massless under certain conditions - and these researchers have found a way to alter the behaviour with magnetic fields, so that the electrons appear to have mass again. Or something....
     
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  5. Ultron Registered Senior Member

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    The article in Nature always states it as "Dirac mass". The article in siliconrepublic writes it as "mass", which introduces false impression, that it means invariant (gravitational) mass. Quite poor journalism.
     
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