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Abuzz about uranium

A type of atomic vibration never before seen in ordinary solid materials has been observed in uranium.

Using X rays and neutrons to monitor crystals of the heavy metal while they're being heated in a furnace, Michael E. Manley of Los Alamos (N.M.) National Laboratory and his colleagues have detected vibrations long-predicted to randomly occur in solids within isolated groups of two or three atoms.

The solitary crystal vibrations, dubbed lattice solitons, appeared at temperatures of 177°C and higher. They probably occur in many solids but are harder to detect in them than in uranium, Manley says. He and his colleagues report their findings in the March 31 Physical Review Letters.

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