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: New filter could advance terahertz data transmission

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New species of electrons can lead to better computing

Sep 11, 2014

Electrons that break the rules and move perpendicular to the applied electric field could be the key to delivering next generation, low-energy computers, a collaboration of scientists from the University ...

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 ...

Recommended for you

New filter could advance terahertz data transmission

Feb 27, 2015

University of Utah engineers have discovered a new approach for designing filters capable of separating different frequencies in the terahertz spectrum, the next generation of communications bandwidth that ...

The super-resolution revolution

Feb 27, 2015

Cambridge scientists are part of a resolution revolution. Building powerful instruments that shatter the physical limits of optical microscopy, they are beginning to watch molecular processes as they happen, ...

Precision gas sensor could fit on a chip

Feb 27, 2015

Using their expertise in silicon optics, Cornell engineers have miniaturized a light source in the elusive mid-infrared (mid-IR) spectrum, effectively squeezing the capabilities of a large, tabletop laser onto a 1-millimeter ...

A new X-ray microscope for nanoscale imaging

Feb 27, 2015

Delivering the capability to image nanostructures and chemical reactions down to nanometer resolution requires a new class of x-ray microscope that can perform precision microscopy experiments using ultra-bright ...

New research signals big future for quantum radar

Feb 26, 2015

A prototype quantum radar that has the potential to detect objects which are invisible to conventional systems has been developed by an international research team led by a quantum information scientist at the University ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.