Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Condensed matter

Atomic collapse on carbon sheets


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 (2013)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Atomic collapse on carbon sheets. Nature 495, 144 (2013).

Download citation


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing