The quantum crystal of electrons, predicted more than 80 years ago by Eugene Wigner, remains one of the most elusive states of matter. In this study, we observed the one-dimensional Wigner crystal directly by imaging its charge density in real space. To image, with minimal invasiveness, the many-body electronic density of a carbon nanotube, we used another nanotube as a scanning-charge perturbation. The images we obtained of a few electrons confined in one dimension match the theoretical predictions for strongly interacting crystals. The quantum nature of the crystal emerges in the observed collective tunneling through a potential barrier. These experiments provide the direct evidence for the formation of small Wigner crystals and open the way for studying other fragile interacting states by imaging their many-body density in real space.
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© 2017 The Authors.