Einstein's relativity theory proven with the 'lead' of a pencil

Nov 09, 2005
Pencil and Graphite

Scientists at The University of Manchester have discovered a new way to test Einstein's theory of relativity using the 'lead' of a pencil.

Until now it was only possible to test the theory by building expensive machinery or by studying stars in distant galaxies, but a team of British, Russian and Dutch scientists has now proven it can be done in the lab using an ultra-thin material called Graphene.

The group, led by Professor Andre Geim of the School of Physics and Astronomy, discovered the one atom thick material last year. Graphene is created by extracting one atom thick slivers of graphite via a process similar to that of tracing with a pencil.

Professor Geim, said: "To understand implications of the relativity theory, researchers often have to go considerable lengths, but our work shows that it is possible to set up direct experiments to test relativistic ideas. In theory, this will speed up possible discoveries and probably save billions of pounds now that tests can be set up using Graphene and relatively inexpensive laboratory equipment."

In a paper published in Nature (November 10, 2005), the team describes how electric charges in Graphene appear to behave like relativistic particles with no mass (zero rest mass). The new particles are called massless Dirac fermions and are described by Einstein's relativity theory (so-called the Dirac equation).

The team also reports several new relativistic effects. They have shown that massless Dirac fermions are pulled by magnetic fields in such a manner that they gain a dynamic (motion) mass described by the famous Einstein's equation E=mc2. This is similar to the case of photons (particles of light) that also have no mass but can still feel the gravitational pull of the Sun due their dynamic mass described by the same equation.

Dr Kostya Novoselov, a key investigator in this research, added: "The integer and fractional quantum Hall effects are two of the most remarkable discoveries of the late 20th century. It is not easy to explain their significance but both discoveries led to Nobel prizes. One can probably appreciate the importance of our present work in terms of fundamental physics, if I mention that one of the phenomena we report is a new, relativistic type of the quantum Hall effect."

Source: University of Manchester

Explore further: Breakthrough in light sources for new quantum technology

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Evidence confirms combustion theory

Jul 01, 2014

(Phys.org) —Researchers at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab) and the University of Hawaii have uncovered the first step in the process that transforms gas-phase molecules ...

Researcher explores the potential of graphene

Oct 11, 2012

Research by Victoria University Professor Uli Zuelicke is contributing to the global race to unlock the potential of graphene, a new material taken from graphite that scientists say could be a game changer for new electronic ...

Recommended for you

What time is it in the universe?

15 hours ago

Flavor Flav knows what time it is. At least he does for Flavor Flav. Even with all his moving and accelerating, with the planet, the solar system, getting on planes, taking elevators, and perhaps even some ...

Breakthrough in light sources for new quantum technology

22 hours ago

One of the most promising technologies for future quantum circuits are photonic circuits, i.e. circuits based on light (photons) instead of electrons (electronic circuits). First, it is necessary to create ...

User comments : 0