The achievement is expected to lead to the first standard definition of the charge on a single electron. It also has far-reaching implications for ultra-low power energy sources and self-regulating "smart" computer chips.
The breakthrough was made by physicists in the same Cambridge University laboratory where the electron was discovered by J J Thomson, 100 years ago this month.
Professor Michael Pepper and his team used high frequency soundwaves to trap and drag individual electrons, one by one, through a device called a "split-gate" that concentrates electrons into a narrow stream. The electrons are carried along in the troughs of the wave, emerging at the same frequency.
The team is now trying for the first time to establish a precise standard definition of the charge of a single electron. The method is to measure the current using standard instruments and then divide it by the frequency.Reuse content