Friday, December 23, 2011

Scientists learn the secret of a famous anti-superconductor

Scientists learn the secret of a famous anti-superconductor: The flip from conductor to insulator, at minus 150 degrees Celsius, discovered by Evert Verwey in 1939, has puzzled scientists ever since. Recently, though, a team from the University of Edinburgh was able to peer inside a crystal of magnetite by aiming an X-ray beam at it. The crystal was half the diameter of a human hair. The team dropped the temperature of the crystal, and saw that the entire structure rearranged itself when brought down to negative 150 degrees. The iron atoms, until then happy to let the electrons proceed, suddenly shifted into organized groups of three, pinning the electron between them. The electrons were trapped, and unable to flow, stopping all current through the magnetite.

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