Israeli scientists have been able for the first time ever to directly watch electrons flowing as liquid, the Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS) in central Israel reported on Monday.
This may lead to the development of new types of electronic devices, which will be significantly more efficient compared to the current ones.
Electrons are responsible for the flow of electricity and the operation of all modern electronics, such as cell phones, computers and televisions.
In these devices, each electron flows through the conductor “as it sees fit” (as gas atoms), crashing into walls and obstacles without noticing the existence of the other electrons.
In their study published in the journal Nature, WIS scientists examined whether electrons can behave completely differently – not as gas but as liquid, with significant interactions between them and group activity.
As a group, particles can cross obstacles in a more coordinated and efficient way, thus enhancing conductivity capabilities.
To test the electron flow configuration, the research team turned to graphene, which is a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon, and which can be made exceptionally clean.
This material was developed by Prof. Andre Geim at the University of Manchester, for which he was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics.
For watching the electron flow, the researchers have developed an innovative nanoscale detector built from a carbon-nanotube transistor.
With this world’s most sensitive probe, they were been able to measure the weakest electric fields without touching the material, and thus watching the electron flow.
Later in the study, the team came up with an overall theoretical description of the system and explained under what conditions the electrons would flow as liquid.