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How Matter Can Melt at Absolute Zero

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Science  09 Oct 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5387, pp. 221-224
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5387.221

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New tools are revealing the crowd behavior of electrons at close to absolute zero, where freezing and melting are governed by quantum mechanics. With sophisticated tools for building semiconductors and improvements in low-temperature analysis, physicists have been able to watch the melting of an electron crystal and the unusual flip-flops of two-dimensional "gases" of electrons. The work may have some practical implications: By searching for hints of quantum phase transitions in high-temperature superconductors, researchers are hoping to spring the lock on the stubborn mystery of how these materials work.