Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Electron has been Split!

If you ask a modern quantum physicist, he or she will tell you that there are two indivisible kinds of particles - quarks and electrons. Get anywhere smaller than these two particles and you're into a energy soup defined by E=mC^2 that Einstein talked about. An electron, we were always taught, is a "fundamental" particle.

Turns out, it is not so fundamental.

A team from the Universities of Cambridge and Birmingham have successfully split the electron into two separate particles - one which holds the electron's charge and one which holds its magnetic spin. They have been named holons and spinons. The split only occurs when electrons are forced into tight proximity that overcomes their natural electromagnetic repulsion.

This has the potential to transform how we see the world around us, and could have huge implications for quantum computing and nanoscale technologies.

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