Splitting the electron

Electrons are the currency of chemistry. The notion of their being divisible, however, has always piqued the interest of those scientists of a physical bent. Now, a team from Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland and IFW Dresden, Germany, claim to have split the electron and have experimental evidence and theoretical insights to support their results. Electron decay, the researchers say, produces two distinct parts - a spinon and an orbiton. The spinon carries the electron's spin and the orbiton its orbital moment. The new "particles" cannot escape the solid environment of strontium copper oxide in which they are formed by exposure to X-rays. Nevertheless, the finding may have implications for high-temperature superconductor research and in other fields, the team says.