Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Mapping the behavior of charges in correlated spin-orbit coupled materials


Electronic disruption prods Mott insulator's conversion to metallic state

In a relatively recently discovered class of materials, known as spin-orbit Mott insulators, theorists have predicted the emergence of new properties at points just beyond the insulating state, when electronic manipulation can transform these compounds into conducting metals.

Images obtained through scanning tunneling spectroscopy show the transformation of a compound of strontium, iridium and oxygen -- part of a mysterious class of materials known as spin-orbit Mott insulators. By introducing charge carriers within the compound by replacing 40 percent of the iridium ions with ruthenium, researchers from Boston College were able to reveal the microscopic mechanisms that transform these insulators into a metallic state. The images reveal ruthenium effectively created features within the compound that resembled minute metallic puddles. As the amount of additional ruthenium was increased, the puddles 'percolate,' coalescing to form a metal across which charges freely flow.

Credit: Nature Communications

A better understanding of electrons near this transition, theorists have predicted, could allow these new Mott insulators to pave the way to discoveries in superconductivity, new topological phases of matter, and new forms of unusual magnetism.

What scientists have lacked is experimental evidence that reveals the microscopic mechanisms that actually drive one of these spin-orbit Mott insulators to become a metal.

Now a team of physicists at Boston College report in Nature Communications that they manipulated a compound of strontium, iridium and oxygen – Sr3Ir207 – with a substitution of ruthenium metal ions, successfully driving the material into the metallic regime, and mapping this previously uncharted transformation as it took place, giving scientists a unique view into the workings of these insulators.

Spin-orbit Mott insulators are so named because of their complex electronic properties. Within these novel materials, there is a repulsive interaction between electrons that tends to drive the electrons to a stand still. This tendency is bolstered by the lowering of the electron's energy via a strong interaction between the electron's magnetic field and its orbital motion around the nucleus.

This delicate interplay between repulsive action, known as Coulomb interaction, and the coupling between electrons' spin and orbital motion has allowed scientists to define this class of materials as spin-orbit Mott insulators.

Boston College Assistant Professor of Physics Stephen D. Wilson said the team succeeded in driving the insulator-to-metal transformation by replacing 40 percent of the iridium ions with ruthenium, thereby creating a metal alloy. That event introduced charge carriers, which have proven successful in destabilizing the so-called Mott phase in the transformation of compounds in this class of insulators.

Scanning tunneling microscopy revealed ruthenium effectively created features within the compound that resembled minute metallic puddles, said Wilson, one of the lead researchers on the project. As the amount of additional ruthenium was increased, the puddles began to "percolate," coalescing to form a metal across which charges freely flow, he added.

"The addition of ruthenium introduces charge carriers, but at a low ratio of ruthenium to iridium they simply stay put in these little metallic puddles, which are symptoms of strong correlated electrons," Wilson said. "These electrons are stable and wouldn't move much. But when we stepped up the disruption by increasing the amount of ruthenium, the puddles moved together and achieved a metallic state."

The behavior in this particular compound parallels what researchers have seen in Mott insulators that play host to such phenomenon as high temperature superconductivity, said Wilson, who will discuss his research at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Physical Society.

By pinpointing exactly where this transformation takes place, the team's findings should help to lay the groundwork in the scientific search for new electronic phases within spin-orbit Mott insulators, said Wilson, who co-authored the report with his Boston College Department of Physics colleagues Professor Vidya Madhavan, Professor Ziqiang Wang, and Assoc. Prof. Fr. Cyril P. Opeil, SJ.


BC graduate students Chetan Dhital, the lead author of the paper, Tom Hogan, Wenwen Zhou, Xiang Chen, Zhensong Ren, Mani Pokharel, and M. Heine also contributed to the project. Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Canadian Center for Neutron Research also collaborated on the research.

Ed Hayward | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Physics behavior carriers electrons insulators ions iridium materials metallic properties puddles

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht ORNL researchers find 'greener' way to assemble materials for solar applications
06.10.2015 | DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

nachricht Extending a Battery's Lifetime with Heat
05.10.2015 | American Institute of Physics (AIP)

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Kick-off for a new era of precision astronomy

The MICADO camera, a first light instrument for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), has entered a new phase in the project: by agreeing to a Memorandum of Understanding, the partners in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, and Italy, have all confirmed their participation. Following this milestone, the project's transition into its preliminary design phase was approved at a kick-off meeting held in Vienna. Two weeks earlier, on September 18, the consortium and the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which is building the telescope, have signed the corresponding collaboration agreement.

As the first dedicated camera for the E-ELT, MICADO will equip the giant telescope with a capability for diffraction-limited imaging at near-infrared...

Im Focus: Locusts at the wheel: University of Graz investigates collision detector inspired by insect eyes

Self-driving cars will be on our streets in the foreseeable future. In Graz, research is currently dedicated to an innovative driver assistance system that takes over control if there is a danger of collision. It was nature that inspired Dr Manfred Hartbauer from the Institute of Zoology at the University of Graz: in dangerous traffic situations, migratory locusts react around ten times faster than humans. Working together with an interdisciplinary team, Hartbauer is investigating an affordable collision detector that is equipped with artificial locust eyes and can recognise potential crashes in time, during both day and night.

Inspired by insects

Im Focus: Physicists shrink particle accelerator

Prototype demonstrates feasibility of building terahertz accelerators

An interdisciplinary team of researchers has built the first prototype of a miniature particle accelerator that uses terahertz radiation instead of radio...

Im Focus: Simple detection of magnetic skyrmions

New physical effect: researchers discover a change of electrical resistance in magnetic whirls

At present, tiny magnetic whirls – so called skyrmions – are discussed as promising candidates for bits in future robust and compact data storage devices. At...

Im Focus: High-speed march through a layer of graphene

In cooperation with the Center for Nano-Optics of Georgia State University in Atlanta (USA), scientists of the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität have made simulations of the processes that happen when a layer of carbon atoms is irradiated with strong laser light.

Electrons hit by strong laser pulses change their location on ultrashort timescales, i.e. within a couple of attoseconds (1 as = 10 to the minus 18 sec). In...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

EHFG 2015: Securing healthcare and sustainably strengthening healthcare systems

01.10.2015 | Event News

Conference in Brussels: Tracking and Tracing the Smallest Marine Life Forms

30.09.2015 | Event News

World Alzheimer`s Day – Professor Willnow: Clearer Insights into the Development of the Disease

17.09.2015 | Event News

Latest News

IP-cores for real-time signal processing in digital communication systems

07.10.2015 | Information Technology

Research initiative presents new traffic technologies for cities

07.10.2015 | Transportation and Logistics

Kick-off for a new era of precision astronomy

07.10.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>