Perspectives

Coherent excitations revealed and calculated

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Science  12 Jan 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6372, pp. 162-163
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar2325

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Summary

Quantum entities manifest themselves as either particles or waves. In a physical system containing a very large number of identical particles, such as electrons in a material, individualistic (particle-like) behavior prevails at high temperatures. At low temperatures, collective behavior emerges, and excitations of the system in this regime are best described as waves—long-lived phenomena that are periodic in both space and time and often dubbed “coherent excitations” by physicists. On page 186 of this issue, Goremychkin et al. (1) used experiment and theory to describe the emergence of coherent excitations in a complex quantum system with strong interactions. They studied a cerium-palladium compound, CePd3, in which the very localized electrons of 4f orbitals of Ce interact with the much more itinerant conduction electrons of the extended d orbitals of Pd at low temperatures to create a wavelike state.