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A Princeton researcher and his international collaborators have used lasers to peek into the complex relationship between a single electron and its environment, a breakthrough that could aid the development of quantum computers.

The technique reveals how an isolated electron and its surroundings develop a relationship known as a Kondo state -- a state of matter that is of great interest to physicists and engineers. The results not only yield insights into a long-standing quandary in theoretical physics, but also may help scientists understand how to store information at the smallest possible scales, which would open vast new realms of computing power.

"What we've done is illuminate the private life of a single electron," said Hakan Tureci, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Princeton and a lead researcher on the project. "It's taken nearly a century to isolate, control and probe a single electron in this way -- an extraordinary feat enabled by quantum theory, cryogenics and nanotechnology."

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Category: Science