Signatures of Electron Fractionalization in Ultraquantum Bismuth

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Science  21 Sep 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5845, pp. 1729-1731
DOI: 10.1126/science.1146509

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Because of the long Fermi wavelength of itinerant electrons, the quantum limit of elemental bismuth (unlike most metals) can be attained with a moderate magnetic field. The quantized orbits of electrons shrink with increasing magnetic field. Beyond the quantum limit, the circumference of these orbits becomes shorter than the Fermi wavelength. We studied transport coefficients of a single crystal of bismuth up to 33 tesla, which is deep in this ultraquantum limit. The Nernst coefficient presents three unexpected maxima that are concomitant with quasi-plateaus in the Hall coefficient. The results suggest that this bulk element may host an exotic quantum fluid reminiscent of the one associated with the fractional quantum Hall effect and raise the issue of electron fractionalization in a three-dimensional metal.

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