Scientists have found definitive evidence that the movement of electrons has a direct effect on atomic arrangements, driving deformations in a material’s 3-D crystalline lattice in ways that can drastically alter the flow of current. Finding evidence for these strong electron-lattice interactions, known as polarons, emphasizes the need to quantify their impact on complex phenomena such as superconductivity (the ability of some materials to carry current with no energy loss) and other promising properties.