Driving the Electron Over the Edge

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Science  03 Oct 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5642, pp. 67-69
DOI: 10.1126/science.1090580

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At low temperatures, many materials, from organics to oxides, undergo a pressure-driven "Mott transition": A small change in the distance between the atoms causes the electrical resistivity of the system to change by many orders of magnitude, without a change in crystal symmetry. In his Perspective, Kotliar highlights the report by Limelette et al. , who have investigated the dependence of the resistivity of a doped vanadium oxide on pressure and temperature around the Mott critical endpoint (where the Mott transition becomes continuous). A purely electronic model accounts for the major features of the experiments, but some more detailed features require the coupling between electrons and the crystal lattice to be taken into account.