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Science. 2003 May 23;300(5623):1265-9.

Ferroelectricity in free niobium clusters.

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  • 1School of Physics, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta GA, 30332-0430, USA.


Electric deflections of gas-phase, cryogenically cooled, neutral niobium clusters [NbN; number of atoms (N) = 2 to 150, temperature (T) = 20to 300kelvin], measured in molecular beams, show that cold clusters may attain an anomalous component with very large electric dipole moments. In contrast, room-temperature measurements show normal metallic polarizabilities. Characteristic energies kBTG(N) [Boltzmann constant kB times a transition temperature TG(N)] are identified, below which the ferroelectric-like state develops. Generally, TG decreases [110 > TG(N) > 10K] as N increases, with pronounced even-odd alternations for N > 38. This new state of metallic matter may be related to bulk superconductivity.

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