Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Electrons get confused: Researchers may have observed the fastest melting of all time: "As a world's first, the HZB researchers have now bombarded an ion crystal (BeO), which has insulator properties, with very high-speed heavy ions (xenon ions), upon which they demonstrated a hitherto unknown effect: The line spectrum of the Auger electrons changed drastically – it became 'washed out', stretching into higher energies. Together with a team of physicists from Poland, Serbia and Brazil, the researchers observed distinctly metallic signatures from the Auger electrons emitted by the heated BeO material. The Auger electrons appeared to have completely 'forgotten' their insulator properties. The researchers see this as clear evidence that the band structure breaks down extremely rapidly when the BeO is bombarded with heavy ions – in less than about 100 femtoseconds (one femtosecond is a millionth of a millionth of a millisecond)."