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To truly understand the essence of something, pelt it with projectiles. That has long been the preferred approach of some physicists, anyway. These scientists routinely study the subtle properties of solids by bombarding them with charged particles and watching for those that bounce off, get stuck or pass through to emerge, somehow changed. The specifics of what happens to such particles while they are inside some materials have remained elusive, however. Recently physicists at the Technical University of Vienna (TU Wien) and their colleagues uncovered some of those details by shooting a charged particle called an ion through a solid they were peeling like a banana, one layer of atoms at a time. Their work, published in Communications Physics in August, could make several techniques for analyzing and fabricating materials more accurate and precise.

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