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Condensed matter

Atomic collapse on carbon sheets

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The wonder material graphene has been used to confirm a long-standing prediction of quantum mechanics: that electrons in super-heavy atoms can spiral into the nucleus and away again, an effect known as atomic collapse.

Michael Crommie at the University of California, Berkeley, and his team assembled artificial super-heavy nuclei by depositing calcium ions on a graphene surface. Electrons behave as if they are massless in graphene's flat sheets of carbon atoms, and follow rules of relativistic quantum mechanics. This allowed the authors to detect the electronic signature of collapse for the artificial atoms using a scanning tunnelling microscope. The authors say that atomic collapse could one day be relevant for electronic devices.

Science http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1234320 (2013)

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Atomic collapse on carbon sheets. Nature 495, 144 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/495144c

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