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What happens to electrons when we shrink their world? The answers to this seemingly offbeat question may provide an important key to developing quantum electronics, a field that could change the face of modern electronics. It's also the question asked by Eran Sela, a research student in the group of Dr. Yuval Oreg of the Weizmann Institute's Condensed Matter Physics Department.
In an electron's world, size matters. In an object that's larger than a tenth of a millimeter or so, they act and move as particles in every way. But shrink their world to under a thousandth of a millimeter, and they begin to act according to the laws of quantum mechanics. That is, they also behave as waves, which have no fixed location. Where is the dividing line between the "everyday" world and the quantum world? Can we gradually increase an electron's world and see it change from a quantum state to a simple particle? At what point, exactly, will this occur? And what if not only the size of an electron's world but its number of dimensions were reduced? How would our electron behave in a two-dimensional or a one-dimensional world? Would electrons, which, singly, repel one another with their electrical charges, collectively lead to a new state of matter?
"I first became interested in science when I realized that one could use mathematical equations to describe the world around us."
Right now, these questions are mostly unanswered. But asking the right question can be the most important part – and sometimes the most exciting part – of research. Ask the right questions, and the answers are sure to follow.
"In the Weizmann Graduate School there is a very strong scientific atmosphere that enables me to develop and think freely."
Eran Sela works in the lab of Dr. Yuval Oreg, the incumbent of the Louis and Ida Rich Career Development Chair in Perpetuity.