Researchers from the US Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have found a method to tune the behavior of electrons — even causing them to behave as if they're under the strain of gravity fields thirty percent greater than what exists on Earth. The researchers start with graphene — a one-atom thick honeycomb latticework of carbon atoms — as their base structural foundation. Using a scanning tunneling microscope they were able to recreate the graphene structure out of carbon monoxide molecules, atom by atom. They then calculated the positions the atoms would warp to if under the heavy strain of magnetic fields as heavy as 60 tesla, and manually moved the atoms to mimic the pattern. In an interesting confluence of cause-and-effect, that electrons then behaved as if they were themselves underneath the effect of the magnetic field — even though none was present.
The researchers see the process as having enormous benefits for physics testing, as well as laying the groundwork for building new molecules with customized electronic properties. "The behavior of electrons in materials is at the heart of essentially all of today's technologies," said Stanford's Hari Manoharan. "We're now able to tune the fundamental properties of electrons so they behave in ways rarely seen in ordinary materials."