Self-Trapping of Electrons at Surfaces

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Science  09 Jan 1998:
Vol. 279, Issue 5348, pp. 190-191
DOI: 10.1126/science.279.5348.190

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Electrons in solid materials can deform the surrounding atomic lattice in a way that can trap the electron. These excitations are called polarons and are important in the physical properties of conducting polymers and superconductors. In his commentary, H�fer discusses results reported in the same issue by Ge et al . in which ultrafast lasers were used to probe the behavior of these polarons in a layer of alkane on top of a metal substrate. The experiments have revealed the dynamics of electrons at surfaces with unprecedented detail, and the technique may have applications in fields such as photosynthesis research.