Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UC San Diego Physicists Find Patterns in New State of Matter

30.03.2012
Physicists at the University of California, San Diego have discovered patterns which underlie the properties of a new state of matter.

In a paper published in the March 29 issue of the journal Nature, the scientists describe the emergence of “spontaneous coherence,” “spin textures” and “phase singularities” when excitons—the bound pairs of electrons and holes that determine the optical properties of semiconductors and enable them to function as novel optoelectronic devices—are cooled to near absolute zero.

This cooling leads to the spontaneous production of a new coherent state of matter which the physicists were finally able to measure in great detail in their basement laboratory at UC San Diego at a temperature of only one-tenth of a degree above absolute zero.

The discovery of the phenomena that underlie the formation of spontaneous coherence of excitons is certain to produce a better scientific understanding of this new state of matter. It will also add new insights into the quirky quantum properties of matter and, in time, lead to the development of novel computing devices and other commercial applications in the field of optoelectronics where understanding of basic properties of light and matter is needed.
The research team was headed by Leonid Butov, a professor of physics at UC San Diego who in 2002 discovered that excitons, when made sufficiently cold, tend to self-organize into an ordered array of microscopic droplets, like a miniature pearl necklace.

Using a state of the art refrigeration system, the UC San Diego physicists were able to achieve temperatures ten times colder than that earlier effort, enabling them with an instrument called an interferometer to measure coherence and spin of each pearl or bead within this necklace.

What they discovered was that the exciton particles’ spin is not homogenous in space, but forms patterns around these beads, which they call “spin textures.” They also discovered that a pattern of spontaneous coherence is correlated with a pattern of spin polarization and with phase singularities in the coherent exciton gas.

“It was a surprise to see this pattern,” said Alex High, a graduate student and the first author of the paper. “And it was even more surprising that polarization measurements showed that there was a strong correlation between the coherence and polarization.”

“We are working both on understanding the basic properties of excitons and on the development of excitonic signal processing,” said Butov. “The physics of excitons is interesting by itself. Furthermore, understanding the basic properties of excitons is needed to build excitonic devices in the future.”

The physicists created the excitons by shining a laser on cooled samples of gallium arsenide, the same semiconducting material used to make transistors in cell phones.

The light kicks electrons out of the atomic orbitals they normally occupy inside of the material. And this creates a negatively charged “free” electron and a positively charged “hole.”

The force of electric attraction keeps these two objects close together, like an electron and proton in a hydrogen atom. It also enables the exciton to exist as a single particle rather than a non-interacting electron and hole. However, since the electron and hole remain in close proximity, they sometimes annihilate one another in a flash of light, similar to annihilation of matter and antimatter.

To control this annihilation, Butov and his team separate electrons and their holes in different nano-sized structures called quantum wells. This allows creation of excitons with the required lifetime, about 50 nanoseconds in the experiment.

“During that time, they cool down, form condensates and demonstrate interesting spin physics,” said High. “Eventually the electron and hole recombine and the light comes back out.”

In their experiments, the physicists sent that emission through a complex set of mirrors called an interferometer, which divides the light into two different paths. This allowed them to compare two spatially separated regions of the same sample, enabling them to see the fine details of spontaneous coherence in excitons that had never been seen before.

“Previous experiments required fiber optics to do any sort of optical measurements in a dilution refrigerator,” said High. “But with this equipment, we can actually take pictures of the excitons at extremely low temperatures.’

“This is a very interesting discovery,” he added. “There’s very rich physics involved.”

Other members of the research team were UC San Diego graduate students Jason Leonard and Aaron Hammack; Michael Fogler, associate professor of physics at UC San Diego; Alexey Kavokin of the University of Southampton; and Arthur Gossard and Ken Campman of UC Santa Barbara’s materials science department. The research project was supported by grants from the US. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation and U.S. Army Research Office.
Media Contact
Kim McDonald, 858-534-7572, kmcdonald@ucsd.edu

Comment: Leonid Butov (858) 822-0362, lvbutov@ucsd.edu

Kim McDonald | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/pressreleases/uc_san_diego_physicists_find_patterns_in_new_state_of_matter/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht The Exception and its Rules
25.07.2016 | Technische Universität Wien

nachricht New record in materials research: 1 terapascals in a laboratory
22.07.2016 | Universität Bayreuth

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: Newly discovered material property may lead to high temp superconductivity

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory have discovered an unusual property of purple bronze that may point to new ways to achieve high temperature superconductivity.

While studying purple bronze, a molybdenum oxide, researchers discovered an unconventional charge density wave on its surface.

Im Focus: Mapping electromagnetic waveforms

Munich Physicists have developed a novel electron microscope that can visualize electromagnetic fields oscillating at frequencies of billions of cycles per second.

Temporally varying electromagnetic fields are the driving force behind the whole of electronics. Their polarities can change at mind-bogglingly fast rates, and...

Im Focus: Continental tug-of-war - until the rope snaps

Breakup of continents with two speed: Continents initially stretch very slowly along the future splitting zone, but then move apart very quickly before the onset of rupture. The final speed can be up to 20 times faster than in the first, slow extension phase.phases

Present-day continents were shaped hundreds of millions of years ago as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. Derived from Pangaea’s main fragments Gondwana...

Im Focus: A Peek into the “Birthing Room” of Ribosomes

Scaffolding and specialised workers help with the delivery – Heidelberg biochemists gain new insights into biogenesis

A type of scaffolding on which specialised workers ply their trade helps in the manufacturing process of the two subunits from which the ribosome – the protein...

Im Focus: New protocol enables analysis of metabolic products from fixed tissues

Scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München have developed a new mass spectrometry imaging method which, for the first time, makes it possible to analyze hundreds of metabolites in fixed tissue samples. Their findings, published in the journal Nature Protocols, explain the new access to metabolic information, which will offer previously unexploited potential for tissue-based research and molecular diagnostics.

In biomedical research, working with tissue samples is indispensable because it permits insights into the biological reality of patients, for example, in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

GROWING IN CITIES - Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Urban Gardening

15.07.2016 | Event News

SIGGRAPH2016 Computer Graphics Interactive Techniques, 24-28 July, Anaheim, California

15.07.2016 | Event News

Partner countries of FAIR accelerator meet in Darmstadt and approve developments

11.07.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

The Exception and its Rules

25.07.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Using Ultrashort Pulsed Laser Radiation to Process Fibre-Reinforced Components

25.07.2016 | Materials Sciences

Added bacterial film makes new mortar resistant to water uptake

25.07.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>