(ORDO NEWS) — Humanity has long dreamed of a technology for obtaining energy from the void. Its various variations are found in science fiction films and books. However, until now, nothing like this actually existed.
This breakthrough work belongs to researchers from the UK, Spain, USA and Japan. They were able to achieve stable self-amplification of electric current in graphene structures through the creation of electrical particles from the void.
This phenomenon was predicted by the physicist Julian Schwinger 70 years ago on the basis of the formulas of quantum electrodynamics. Until now, it was believed that it was impossible to reproduce it under terrestrial conditions.
What is the Schwinger Effect
- The essence of the Schwinger effect is that a super-powerful electric field seems to break the vacuum into a pair of particles – an electron and a positron.
- The conservation laws are not violated in this case, since the electron and positron are mirror opposite to each other in terms of electric charge and other properties, and the electric field gives energy for the appearance of particles.
- It’s like “spreading zero” into 1 and -1, the sum is still zero.
- Pairs “particle-antiparticle” are constantly born from vacuum, but under normal conditions they mutually annihilate each other (annihilate) at the same moment, returning energy back to vacuum. In the end, nothing.
- If this happens in a super-powerful electric or magnetic field, its energy will be enough so that the particles are not destroyed immediately, but have time to scatter far enough to not annihilate.
- In nature, magnetic fields of such strength can be observed in neutron stars of a rare type – magnetars.
- Their magnetic field is about 80 million times stronger than what a person has ever been able to create in a laboratory.
- Graphene, a layer of carbon one atom thick, made it possible to create an electric field of comparable strength and induce the Schwinger effect in the laboratory.
Graphene comes to the rescue
To achieve the result, physicists used graphene superlattices composed in a special way. A very strong electric current was applied to them, and out of nowhere, additional charge carrier particles began to appear in graphene, which made the current even stronger – electrons and positrons.
By observing this effect, the researchers brought the speed of electrons up to a thousand kilometers per second – the current strength exceeded the maximum possible for any substance, but graphene unexpectedly withstood such a current.
Physicists say they wanted to see what would happen if the current was pushed to its maximum. They hoped to reveal superconductivity in their graphene lattices, but they got a completely different phenomenon – the Schwinger effect – the self-amplification of the current through the electric field generated by it.
The discovery could lead to electronic devices with characteristics not possible with conventional materials. However, scientists note that this will definitely not happen in the foreseeable future. If only because the creation of pure graphene is still very expensive.
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