Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Physicists find strange state of matter in superconducting crystal

25.08.2017

Discovery could help scientists better understand exotic behaviors of electrons

New research published this week shows a rare state of matter in which electrons in a superconducting crystal organize collectively. The findings lay the groundwork for answering one of the most compelling questions in physics: How do correlated electron systems work, and are they related to one another?


Crystalline samples of CeRhIn5 from Los Alamos were cut into microscopic, crystalline conducting paths with a focused ion beam at MPI-CPfS.

Credit: MPI CPfS


Crystalline samples of CeRhIn5 from Los Alamos were cut into microscopic, crystalline conducting paths with a focused ion beam at MPI-CPfS.

Credit: MPI CPfS

The paper, Electronic in-plane symmetry breaking at field-tuned quantum criticality in CeRhIn5, was published in the journal Nature.

Electrons in most metals act individually, free to move through a metal to conduct electric currents and heat. But in a special sample of layered cerium, rhodium and indium (CeRhIn5), scientists discovered that electrons unite to flow in the same direction (a behavior called "breaking symmetry") when in high magnetic fields of 30 tesla. Known as "electronic nematic," this is a rare state of matter between liquid and crystal.

"It's sort of like in ancient times," clarifies Phillip Moll, principal investigator of this work and leader of the Physics of Microstructured Quantum Matter Group at the Max-Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids in Germany. "People would draw maps in whatever direction best served them. But this state is like the moment when the world's mapmakers unified to arbitrarily pick north as the orientation for all maps."

Scientists believe that the electronic nematicity state may be closely related to superconductivity, another strongly correlated electron state in which electrons flow with no resistance. This cerium crystal becomes a superconductor under high pressure. However, when placed in a high magnetic field, it demonstrates this electronic nematic state. Because it exhibits both behaviors, CeRhIn5 appears uniquely positioned to one-way reveal possible interactions between these two correlated electron phases.

"This fundamental question in materials in which the electrons interact was the starting point for my PhD thesis," adds Maja Bachmann, a doctoral student on the research team. "Do the electrons have to decide either to pair or to all go in one direction? In other words, are superconductivity and nematicity competitive phenomena, or could the same interaction that leads to pairing also create nematicity?"

This research featured a specialized sample fabricated from a single crystal of CeRhIn5 using focused ion beam (FIB) machining, and required experiments in both pulsed and resistive magnets. Work in the DC Field Facility's 45-tesla hybrid showed that the nematic phase appears in very high fields, beginning at 30 tesla and remaining through the hybrid's full field. Researchers wanted to understand how far this phase extended and, through experiments at the Pulsed Field Facility, found that at around 50 tesla, the nematicity vanishes, possibly even undergoing another exotic phase transition. .

But something else happened during the pulsed experiments: Researchers noticed that they could control the direction of the electrons when they tilted the field slightly. Returning back to the DC Field Facility, the scientists were able to continuously change this tilt angle while keeping the field steady at 45 tesla, a unique experimental parameter at the MagLab.

"One big advantage of the MagLab is that it offers all the state-of-the-art magnet technologies, and throughout a project, the magnet type can be changed easily if it becomes clear that a different technology was required," Moll said. "Really, the close technological, scientific and administrative integration of these very different but complementary high-field technologies was the key to this success, and is a major strength of the MagLab."

Moll's team performed additional work in the lab's 100-tesla pulsed magnet that will be featured in a future paper. The researchers are continuing to explore how the nematic phase merges into the superconducting phase, part of an ongoing project that will involve additional MagLab experiments.

###

In addition to Bachman, Moll's co-authors on the paper included F. Ronning and E.D. Bauer of Los Alamos National Laboratory; T. Helm and K. R. Shirer of the Max-Planck-Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids; and L. Balicas, M. K. Chan, B. J. Ramshaw, R. D. McDonald, F. F. Balakirev and M. Jaime of the National MagLab.

About MPI CPfS

The research at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids (MPI CPfS) in Dresden aims to discover and understand new materials with unusual properties.

In close cooperation, chemists and physicists (including chemists working on synthesis, experimentalists and theoreticians) use the most modern tools and methods to examine how the chemical composition and arrangement of atoms, as well as external forces, affect the magnetic, electronic and chemical properties of the compounds.

New quantum materials, physical phenomena and materials for energy conversion are the result of this interdisciplinary collaboration.

The MPI CPfS is part of the Max Planck Society and was founded in 1995 in Dresden. It consists of around 280 employees, of which about 180 are scientists, including 70 doctoral students.

Ingrid Rothe | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Chemical Physics Electrons MPI Max Planck Institute

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht NASA's James Webb Space Telescope completes final cryogenic testing
21.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Previous evidence of water on mars now identified as grainflows
21.11.2017 | US Geological Survey

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Previous evidence of water on mars now identified as grainflows

21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope completes final cryogenic testing

21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New catalyst controls activation of a carbon-hydrogen bond

21.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>