News of the WeekSolid-State Physics

Picking Up Bits of the Electron's Charge

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Science  21 May 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5418, pp. 1251
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5418.1251b

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Two years ago, teams in France and Israel both found that in layers of electrons exposed to high magnetic fields at low temperatures, charge could shatter into "quasi-particles" that had one-third the fundamental charge of the electron. In this week's issue of Nature, the Israeli team announces it has now spotted one-fifth-charge quasi-particles. The new results provide further confirmation for the theory put forward in 1983 by Robert Laughlin of Stanford University to explain the fractional quantum Hall effect, a phenomenon in which the tiny units of the quantum world have large-scale effects.