Klitzing demonstrated that electrical resistance occurs in very precise units by using the Hall effect. The Hall effect denotes the voltage that develops between the edges of a thin current-carrying ribbon placed between the poles of a strong magnet. The ratio of this voltage to the current is called the Hall resistance. When the magnetic field is very strong and the temperature very low, the Hall resistance varies only in the discrete jumps first observed by Klitzing. The size of those jumps is directly related to the so-called fine-structure constant, which defines the mathematical ratio between the motion of an electron in the innermost orbit around an atomic nucleus to the speed of light.
The significance of Klitzing's discovery, made in 1980, was immediately
recognized. His experiments enabled other scientists to study the conducting
properties of electronic components with extraordinary precision. His
work also aided in determining the precise value of the fine structure
constant and in establishing convenient standards for the measurement
of electrical resistance.
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