Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Pushing and pulling: Using strain to tune a new quantum material

24.03.2014

Research finds a new way to control topological insulators

Research into a recently discovered class of materials shows they have the necessary characteristics to develop ultra-energy efficient electronics. Topological insulators (TI) are three-dimensional materials that conduct electricity on their surfaces, while the interior insulates.

TI Cover Image

The study found that the atoms are either stretched apart or pushed together at the grain boundaries and that strain can be used to 'tune' the material's unique electronic properties. Here, the boundaries appear dotted or puckered, while the Bi2Se3 grain forms in a triangular shape.

Credit: None

Their surfaces are particularly unique because the motion of the electrons is "protected" by symmetry, meaning electrons will keep moving without scattering even when they encounter defects and contamination.

In fact, electrons on the surface of TIs move so robustly scientists are trying to determine the best way to control or "tune" them in order to use them in next-generation electronics. Until now the only way to change the electronic state was to apply a magnetic or an electric field.

But research led by physicists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) has revealed a new method. The team proved that surface conduction on a bismuth selenide TI (Bi2Se3) can be enhanced or destroyed, depending on the kind of stress applied to the material at certain locations, called grain boundaries.

The work was published online March 16 in the journal Nature Physics.

Bi2Se3 is comprised of quintuple atomic layers of bismuth and selenium stacked on top of one another with strong lateral bonds and weak vertical ones between the layers. During its synthesis, when tiny crystalline Bi2Se3 grains coalesce, they form lines of intersection.

These grain boundaries, in which the atoms are either stretched apart or pushed together, can be compared to laying a tile floor starting with randomly placed ceramic pieces, says UWM Physics Professor Lian Li, principal investigator for the National Science Foundation grant supporting the research.

"They do not quite fit together perfectly," says Li, "which produces strain at the joints in the same way as tiles that don't align."

In proximity to a grain boundary where strain exists, the electronic properties on the Bi2Se3 surface are modified. In-plane pulling protects the flow of electrons because the bonds are strong, says Li. Conversely, in-plane compression increases the separation of the quintuple layers, destroying the surface states.

Unraveling the behaviors of TIs is important because it's a promising material for spintronics, an emerging field of nanoscale electronics that involves the manipulation of the electron spin as well as the charge.

By using the orientation of the electron spin, data transfer can be quicker and computing storage capacity increased.

"TIs would work well in spintronics," says Li, "because the spin and velocity of their surface electrons is locked in at right angles."

But first, scientist must find ways to manipulate their behaviors – even to create a simple "on-off" switch.

"So, when we apply compression at the boundaries, then you have no spin movement. All of the sudden, it becomes a switch," says Michael Weinert, UWM Distinguished Professor of Physics and director of the Laboratory for Surface Science. "The advantage here is control. You don't have to apply an electrical field, you can apply stress."

###

In addition to Li and Weinert, contributors to the paper include Ying Liu, Yaoyi Li and Shavani Rajput at UWM; Vlado Lazarov, Daniel Gilks, and Leonardo Lari at the University of York, U.K.; and Pedro Luis Galindo at Universidad de Cádiz, Spain.

Lian Li | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uwm.edu

Further reports about: Conversely Physics advantage bonds electrons materials spintronics strain surfaces tiny

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht LIGO confirms RIT's breakthrough prediction of gravitational waves
12.02.2016 | Rochester Institute of Technology

nachricht Milestone in physics: gravitational waves detected with the laser system from LZH
12.02.2016 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.

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: Production of an AIDS vaccine in algae

Today, plants and microorganisms are heavily used for the production of medicinal products. The production of biopharmaceuticals in plants, also referred to as “Molecular Pharming”, represents a continuously growing field of plant biotechnology. Preferred host organisms include yeast and crop plants, such as maize and potato – plants with high demands. With the help of a special algal strain, the research team of Prof. Ralph Bock at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam strives to develop a more efficient and resource-saving system for the production of medicines and vaccines. They tested its practicality by synthesizing a component of a potential AIDS vaccine.

The use of plants and microorganisms to produce pharmaceuticals is nothing new. In 1982, bacteria were genetically modified to produce human insulin, a drug...

Im Focus: The most accurate optical single-ion clock worldwide

Atomic clock experts from the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) are the first research group in the world to have built an optical single-ion clock which attains an accuracy which had only been predicted theoretically so far. Their optical ytterbium clock achieved a relative systematic measurement uncertainty of 3 E-18. The results have been published in the current issue of the scientific journal "Physical Review Letters".

Atomic clock experts from the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) are the first research group in the world to have built an optical single-ion clock...

Im Focus: Goodbye ground control: autonomous nanosatellites

The University of Würzburg has two new space projects in the pipeline which are concerned with the observation of planets and autonomous fault correction aboard satellites. The German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy funds the projects with around 1.6 million euros.

Detecting tornadoes that sweep across Mars. Discovering meteors that fall to Earth. Investigating strange lightning that flashes from Earth's atmosphere into...

Im Focus: Flow phenomena on solid surfaces: Physicists highlight key role played by boundary layer velocity

Physicists from Saarland University and the ESPCI in Paris have shown how liquids on solid surfaces can be made to slide over the surface a bit like a bobsleigh on ice. The key is to apply a coating at the boundary between the liquid and the surface that induces the liquid to slip. This results in an increase in the average flow velocity of the liquid and its throughput. This was demonstrated by studying the behaviour of droplets on surfaces with different coatings as they evolved into the equilibrium state. The results could prove useful in optimizing industrial processes, such as the extrusion of plastics.

The study has been published in the respected academic journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America).

Im Focus: New study: How stable is the West Antarctic Ice Sheet?

Exceeding critical temperature limits in the Southern Ocean may cause the collapse of ice sheets and a sharp rise in sea levels

A future warming of the Southern Ocean caused by rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere may severely disrupt the stability of the West...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation in Africa 2016

12.02.2016 | Event News

Travel grants available: Meet the world’s most proficient mathematicians and computer scientists

09.02.2016 | Event News

AKL’16: Experience Laser Technology Live in Europe´s Largest Laser Application Center!

02.02.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

LIGO confirms RIT's breakthrough prediction of gravitational waves

12.02.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Gene switch may repair DNA and prevent cancer

12.02.2016 | Life Sciences

Using 'Pacemakers' in spinal cord injuries

12.02.2016 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>