Physicists Snap First Image of “Electron Ice” – Predicted More Than 90 Years Ago

Electron Ice

This scanning tunneling microscope image of a graphene sheet reveals that a Wigner crystal – a honeycomb arrangement of electrons, like an electron ice – has formed inside a layered structure underneath. Credit: Image by Hongyuan Li and Shaowei Li, courtesy of Nature

Breakthrough demonstrates solid state of electrons predicted more than 90 years ago.

More than 90 years ago, physicist Eugene Wigner predicted that at low densities and cold temperatures, electrons that usually zip through materials would freeze into place, forming an electron ice, or what has been dubbed a Wigner crystal.

While physicists have obtained indirect evidence that Wigner crystals exist, no one has been able to snap a picture of one – until now.

Physicists from Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley recently published in the journal Nature an image of electron ice sandwiched between two semiconductor layers. The image is proof positive that these crystals exist.

“If you say you have an electron crystal, show me the crystal,” senior author Feng Wang, faculty senior scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and UC Berkeley professor of physics, told Nature.

The Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley team, involving physicists from the labs of Wang, Michael Crommie, and Alex Zettl, developed a new technique for visualizing the crystals, which tend to “melt” when probed. By placing a graphene sheet over the semiconductor sandwich, the team was able to probe the Wigner crystal with a scanning tunneling microscope without melting the sample and demonstrate the crystalline lattice structure, as Wigner predicted.

According to doctoral candidate Hongyuan Li and former postdoctoral fellow Shaowei Li, co-first authors of the paper, the study not only lays a solid foundation for understanding electron Wigner crystals, but also provides an approach that is generally applicable for imaging correlated electron lattices in other systems.

Reference: “Imaging two-dimensional generalized Wigner crystals” by Hongyuan Li, Shaowei Li, Emma C. Regan, Danqing Wang, Wenyu Zhao, Salman Kahn, Kentaro Yumigeta, Mark Blei, Takashi Taniguchi, Kenji Watanabe, Sefaattin Tongay, Alex Zettl, Michael F. Crommie and Feng Wang, 29 September 2021, Nature.
DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03874-9

5 Comments on "Physicists Snap First Image of “Electron Ice” – Predicted More Than 90 Years Ago"

  1. so as they say where have all the muons gone disappeared into the ether
    so as they say where have all the taus gone vanished from plain sight
    so as they say those them there they are electrons skating on frozen air or ice
    they are vibrating oscillating believe it not from the freezing cold
    do you realize in three dimensions
    or do you look with 2 d eyes
    do you know electrons expand to this size when frozen and magnified microscopely
    do you recognise the pairs as they couple up
    fracture your patterned honeycomb pupils away from the beguiling shaped order
    and if you can differentiate between each equilateral triangle
    and observe minutely the following details
    the uprighteousness of a electron where do you think its polar n head should be
    where do you think its polar s feet should be
    the chirality of its ambi dexterousness of an electron
    where do you think the right side is
    where do you think the left side is
    the foresight of the electron where do you think it directs itself forward
    the hindsight of the electron where do you think its rear view is
    its amazing how they arrange themselves like frozen penguins in a pod
    pair by pair formation
    to make you see 6 x 6 formation
    to hexgonal u from the duality of its existence in all 3 dimensions with 6 focus points like u do as you step forward with your feet and not your head and leave your head to direct your arm to do the right or left energetic action to force yourself to align a certain way so that a hexagram formation results
    thats when you are a frozen penguin
    turn the temperature up degree by degree watch how your electron will start to waddle then walk then slip then slide then run then sprint then gallop into the warm liquid sea and dissappear in a flash where all you will be recording is the empty space of where the penguin has been but there in the snow my penguin electron footprint remains to make u recall i was here
    but if you really really focus that pupil of yours
    do u see the gluon holding them together the strong force interaction
    do u see the faint magnet force like repels like at every side of an equilateral triangle
    and dont you notice the way in spherical geometry how a straight line is always traced out on the circumference of a circle all at equal distance from a remote point as a square always has equal sides in length
    what have i missed as u look with thine eyes
    open mine eyes up to thine overview

    • ChevvyTraveler | October 31, 2021 at 1:46 am | Reply

      Reply to Mullach Abu. Sincere respect to you for your profound observation – the way that you discern the finger print of a gluon structure underlying this lattice. What this 2d lattice reveals is, I believe, the Dirac-Born-Infelt realm of electron/positron/muon as a phase shifted entirely distinct realm sitting above the fundamental structure of Atom Number One, the Holiest of Holy relics upon which all of Creation is based.

  2. Nikola Milovic | October 29, 2021 at 1:13 pm | Reply

    If these researchers understand matter and its formation, and especially the laws of motion, no one would ever allow themselves to say that they found frozen electrons !!
    – Who has ever seen electrons next to each other and making a plate that can be frozen.
    First, when the temperature drops to absolute zero, do scientists know what happens to the particles that make up these materials?
    -Second, what is the comprehensible principle and process that the temperature in the fall kills the movement? Do they know how to explain it, or could you not reach that point of numbness at all, because it does not exist in the universe.
    – Third, can, in any way, collect a bunch of electrons and make them make a mat that can be frozen and how. And what is icing, anyway? We are not talking about liquids, but about particles and entropy in general, which science does not understand !!

  3. Andres Albarran | November 1, 2021 at 3:30 pm | Reply

    A hundred+ years from now there’s going to be an article that says the first ever atomic anomaly within a plant derived molecular isolate has been discovered and i know a few things. first I obviously wont be around, secondly it won’t be my name that acknowledged as the man who hypothesized it although i am the man. Thirdly it’s a depressing situation when a government tells you to go fuck your self as i was told by the United States, fourthly my only happiness is knowing that dying without having committed suicide nor acts of violence including unviolent offenses that force you into a worst life due to the fact that when people get prison sentences that are hundreds of years long that sh*t continues with you into the afterlife. it doesnt just stop when a person is executed or dies of natural causes in a cell the punishment manifests as horrible reoccurrences. anyways knowing i get to wake up younger then i am or will be when i die one day in a place where people who have a say here dont have the ability to speak up for sh*t there is a great way to enjoy life. All while knowing the reformation of a Molecular theory structure to its atomic theory state is possible, so is altering travel patterns within said atom to change elemental properties that includes structural integrity of a large volume of the same patterned points within a graph that is the matrix even edibility becomes a possibility when the pattern of a dot is changed, not to mention the capability of causing the smallest of particles to grow directly into atoms and so forth in a reproductive system known as a star.

  4. Congratulations

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