Electrons flowing across the boundary between two materials are the foundation of many key technologies, from flash memories to batteries and solar cells. Now researchers have directly observed and clocked these tiny cross-border movements for the first time, watching as electrons raced seven-tenths of a nanometer – about the width of seven hydrogen atoms – in 100 millionths of a billionth of a second.
Led by scientists at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University, the team made these observations by measuring tiny bursts of electromagnetic waves given off by the traveling electrons – a phenomenon described more than a century ago by Maxwell's equations, but only now applied to this important measurement.
"To make something useful, generally you need to put different materials together and transfer charge or heat or light between them," said Eric Yue Ma, a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of SLAC/Stanford Professor Tony Heinz and lead author of a report in Science Advances.
"This opens up a new way to measure how charge – in this case, electrons and holes – travels across the abrupt interface between two materials," he said. "It doesn't just apply to layered materials. For instance, it can also be used to look at electrons flowing between a solid surface and molecules that are attached to it, or even, in principle, between a liquid and a solid."
Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2019-02-view-electron-short-speedy-border.html#jCp