A new material could open the door to a new kind of electronics: researchers at the Vienna University of Technology have created a stable two-dimensional electron gas in strontium titanate
Usually, microelectronic devices are made of silicon or similar semiconductors. Recently, the electronic properties of metal oxides have become quite interesting. These materials are more complex, yet offer a broader range of possibilities to tune their properties.
An important breakthrough has now been achieved at the Vienna University of Technology: a two dimensional electron gas was created in strontium titanate. In a thin layer just below the surface electrons can move freely and occupy different quantum states. Strontium titanate is not only a potential future alternative to standard semiconductors, it could also exhibit interesting phenomena, such as superconductivity, thermoelectricity or magnetic effects that do not occur in the materials that are used for today's electronic devices.
The Surface Layer and the Inside
This project closely links theoretical calculations and experiments. Zhiming Wang from Professor Ulrike Diebold's research team was the leading experimentalist; some of the experimental work was done at the synchrotron BESSY in Berlin. Zhicheng Zhong from Professor Karsten Held's group studied the material in computer simulations.
Not all of the atoms of strontium titanate are arranged in the same pattern: if the material is cut at a certain angle, the atoms of the surface layer form a structure, which is different from the structure in the bulk of the material. "Inside, every titanium atom has six neighbouring oxygen atoms, whereas the titanium atoms at the surface are only connected to four oxygen atoms each", says Ulrike Diebold. This is the reason for the remarkable chemical stability of the surface. Normally such materials are damaged if they come into contact with water or oxygen.
Migrating Oxygen Atoms
Something remarkable happens when the material is irradiated with high-energy electromagnetic waves: "The radiation can remove oxygen atoms from the surface", Ulrike Diebold explains. Then other oxygen atoms from within the bulk of the material move up to the surface. Inside the material, an oxygen deficiency builds up, as well a surplus of electrons.
"These electrons, located in a two dimensional layer very close to the surface, can move freely. We call this an electron gas", says Karsten Held. There has already been some evidence of two dimensional electron gases in similar materials, but until now the creation of a stable, durable electron gas at a surface has been impossible. The properties of the electrons in the gas can be finely tuned. Depending on the intensity of the radiation, the number of electrons varies. By adding different atoms, the electronic properties can also be changed.
"In solid state physics, the so-called band structure of a material is very important. It describes the relationship between the energy and the momentum of the electrons. The remarkable thing about our surface is that it shows completely different kinds of band structures, depending on the quantum state of the electron", says Karsten Held.
The electron gas in the new material exhibits a multitude of different electronic structures. Some of them could very well be suitable for producing interesting magnetic effects or superconductivity. The promising properties of strontium titanate will now be further investigated. The researchers hope that, by applying external electric fields or by placing additional metal atoms on the surface, the new material could reveal a few more of its secrets.
Prof. Ulrike Diebold
Institute for Applied Physics
Vienna University of Technology
Wiedner Hauptstraße 8-10, 1040 Wien
Prof. Karsten Held
Institut for Solid State Physics
Vienna University of Technology
Wiedner Hauptstraße 8
Florian Aigner | EurekAlert!
New gel-like coating beefs up the performance of lithium-sulfur batteries
22.03.2017 | Yale University
Pulverizing electronic waste is green, clean -- and cold
22.03.2017 | Rice University
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Earth Sciences
24.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
24.03.2017 | Earth Sciences