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Wigner Crystal

Wigner Crystal:

Scientists have for the first time successfully visualized the elusive Wigner crystal, a strange kind of matter that is made entirely of electrons.

  • Wigner Crystal is the solid phase of electrons, first predicted by Eugene Wigner in 1934.
  • It is one of the first proposed many-body phases stabilized by the electron-electron interaction.
  • Interaction among electrons could lead to their spontaneous arrangement into a crystal-like configuration, or lattice, of closely packed electrons.
  • This could only occur because of their mutual repulsion and under low densities and extremely cold temperatures.
  • This is because the potential energy dominates the kinetic energy at low densities, so the detailed spatial arrangement of the electrons becomes important.
  • To minimize the potential energy, electrons form a crystal-like configuration.
  • A true Wigner crystal, instead of following the familiar laws of physics in the everyday world, would follow the laws of quantum physics, in which the electrons would act not like individual particles but more like a single wave.
  • Wigner crystal is stable at extremely low densities.
  • If the density increases, the kinetic energy becomes important, and eventually, the crystal melts.
  • Wigner crystal is very difficult to observe experimentally. The reason is that it is very fragile with respect to the environment.