Society

New Metal Conducts Electrons Like Liquids

A research team from Boston College has artificially engineered a new metal material that can conduct electrons in a way similar to the flow of liquids in a pipe. The new material moves things in a more fluid-like than particle-like manner.

The research team was led by the Boston College Assistant Professor of Physics Fazel Tafti. With the help of researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas and Florida State University, Tafti created a superconductor that utilized the new discovery that they made: electron-phonon liquid inside of a metal. 

“We wanted to test a recent prediction of the ‘electron-phonon fluid’,” Tafti said, noting that phonons are the vibrations of a crystal structure. “Typically, electrons are scattered by phonons which leads to the usual diffusive motion of electrons in metals. A new theory shows that when electrons strongly interact with phonons, they will form a united electron-phonon liquid. This novel liquid will flow inside the metal exactly in the same way as water flows in a pipe.”

Tafti based her work off of the theories of many physicists, and was able to take it to the next step by making it a reality. The research team says that the project will continue to expand to make new discoveries. 

An article by the Boston College describes the specifics of Tafti’s findings. “Tafti noted that our daily lives depend on the flow of water in pipes and electrons in wires. As similar as they may sound, the two phenomena are fundamentally different. Water molecules flow as a fluid continuum, not as individual molecules, obeying the laws of hydrodynamics. Electrons, however, flow as individual particles and diffuse inside metals as they get scattered by lattice vibrations.”

These new discoveries are significant because it helps scientists control electrons better in future experiments, since they know how water flows. This could also help innovate new widespread products, creating a more effective flow of electrons. 

When asked what the next step of this research was, Tafti answered that it would be to find other materials that pertain to these traits, as well as attempting to control the hydrodynamic flow of these electrons. This new breakthrough will act as a foundation for future research.

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