Science

The first ever photo of an electron inside an exciton was obtained

Summary

Revolutionary technology has allowed scientists to photograph incredible close-ups inside fleeting particles called excitons. Exciton is a quasiparticle of great importance in the physics of semiconductors. Semiconductors are materials that are key to many modern technological devices, be they solar […]

Revolutionary technology has allowed scientists to photograph incredible close-ups inside fleeting particles called excitons.

Exciton is a quasiparticle of great importance in the physics of semiconductors. Semiconductors are materials that are key to many modern technological devices, be they solar cells, LEDs, lasers and smartphones.

Excitons are truly unique and interesting particles, according to Michael Man of the OIST Femtosecond Spectroscopy Division. “They are electrically neutral, which means they behave very differently in materials than other particles like electrons. Their presence can change the reaction of the material to light, ”says the scientist.

Excitons are formed when semiconductors absorb photons of light, which causes negatively charged electrons to jump from a lower energy level to a higher one. This leaves positively charged empty spaces, called holes, at the lower energy level. Oppositely charged electrons and holes are attracted and begin to rotate around each other, which creates excitons

Until now, scientists have failed to capture excitons. One problem is their fragility – it takes relatively little energy to break an exciton into free electrons and holes. Moreover, they are fleeting in nature – in some materials, excitons are extinguished in about a few thousandths of a billionth of a second after their formation, when the excited electrons “fall” back into the holes.

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