0427_QIMIAO-1 [Electron politics: Physicists probe organization at the quantum level]

This microscope image shows thermometers (top and bottom) and a heater (right) connected via 50-micrometer-wide gold wires to a black rectangle of the ytterbium dirhodium disilicide (center) that is only three-quarters of a millimeter wide. Using this setup, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids in Dresden, Germany, induced a thermal current by setting up a small difference in temperature at the two ends of the sample. The proportionality coefficient between this temperature difference and the thermal power provided by the heater defined the thermal conductivity of the sample, which was found to violate traditional laws of physics when the material was cooled to a "quantum critical point."

About Jade Boyd

Jade Boyd is science editor and associate director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.