A ‘strange metal’ has been discovered by scientists with a number of mannerisms they’re scrambling to try and understand.
Materials like copper and silver behave in predictable ways, and anyone who took a science class in school can understand how their ability to conduct electricity can change depending on when they’re heated or cooled.
However, there is another group of metals known as ‘strange metals’. These behave in a different way to the usual electrical conductance rules, and scientists are excited by them because they offer a glimpse of the quantum world, as well as understanding various other not-yet-explained phenomena.
The latest strange metal behaviour, however, differs from others in that its electrical charge isn’t carried by electrons like you’d see in the aforementioned copper or silver. As The Independent reports, it’s carried by so-called Cooper pairs that are more like waves.
Jim Valles, a professor of physics at Brown and author on the new study, explained:
We have these two fundamentally different types of particles whose behaviours converge around a mystery.
What this says is that any theory to explain strange metal behaviour can’t be specific to either type of particle. It needs to be more fundamental than that.
Strange metal behaviour has been around for about 30 years now and scientists have continued to scratch their heads about it. The first discovery of such a class of metal was made with a material called cuprates, with the strange metals refusing to obey the expected rules.
‘To try to understand what’s happening in these strange metals, people have applied mathematical approaches similar to those used to understand black holes. So there’s some very fundamental physics happening in these materials’, Valles said.
Scientists are none the wiser as to why the metals might behave in this way, but this new evidence means they can take a step forward to gaining a better understanding of it.
‘It’s been a challenge for theoreticians to come up with an explanation for what we see in strange metals,’ Valles added. ‘Our work shows that if you’re going to model charge transport in strange metals, that model must apply to both fermions and bosons — even though these types of particles follow fundamentally different rules.’