Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers demonstrate existence of new form of electronic matter

15.03.2018

Researchers have produced a "human scale" demonstration of a new phase of matter called quadrupole topological insulators that was recently predicted using theoretical physics. These are the first experimental findings to validate this theory.

The researchers report their findings in the journal Nature.

The team's work with QTIs was born out of the decade-old understanding of the properties of a class of materials called topological insulators. "TIs are electrical insulators on the inside and conductors along their boundaries, and may hold great potential for helping build low-power, robust computers and devices, all defined at the atomic scale," said mechanical science and engineering professor and senior investigator Gaurav Bahl.


A single circuit board, foreground, that when joined with others forms the experimental array of the quadrupole topological insulator.

Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

The uncommon properties of TIs make them a special form of electronic matter. "Collections of electrons can form their own phases within materials. These can be familiar solid, liquid and gas phases like water, but they can also sometimes form more unusual phases like a TI," said co-author and physics professor Taylor Hughes .

TIs typically exist in crystalline materials and other studies confirm TI phases present in naturally occurring crystals, but there are still many theoretical predictions that need to be confirmed, Hughes said.

One such prediction was the existence of a new type of TI having an electrical property known as a quadrupole moment. "Electrons are single particles that carry charge in a material," said physics graduate student Wladimir Benalcazar.

"We found that electrons in crystals can collectively arrange to give rise not only to charge dipole units - that is, pairings of positive and negative charges - but also high-order multipoles in which four or eight charges are brought together into a unit. The simplest member of these higher-order classes are quadrupoles in which two positive and two negative charges are coupled."

It is not currently feasible to engineer a material atom by atom, let alone control the quadrupolar behavior of electrons. Instead, the team built a workable-scale analogue of a QTI using a material created from printed circuit boards. Each circuit board holds a square of four identical resonators - devices that absorb electromagnetic radiation at a specific frequency. The boards are arranged in a grid pattern to create the full crystal analogue.

"Each resonator behaves as an atom, and the connections between them behave as bonds between atoms," said Kitt Peterson, the lead author and an electrical engineering graduate student. "We apply microwave radiation to the system and measure how much is absorbed by each resonator, which tells us about how electrons would behave in an analogous crystal. The more microwave radiation is absorbed by a resonator, the more likely it is to find an electron on the corresponding atom."

The detail that makes this a QTI and not a TI is a result of the specifics of the connections between resonators, the researchers said.

"The edges of a QTI are not conductive like you would see in a typical TI," Bahl said, "Instead only the corners are active, that is, the edges of the edges, and are analogous to the four localized point charges that would form what is known as a quadrupole moment. Exactly as Taylor and Wladimir predicted ."

"We measured how much microwave radiation each resonator within our QTI absorbed, confirming the resonant states in a precise frequency range and located precisely in the corners," Peterson said. "This pointed to the existence of predicted protected states that would be filled by electrons to form four corner charges."

Those corner charges of this new phase of electronic matter may be capable of storing data for communications and computing. "That may not seem realistic using our 'human scale' model," Hughes said. "However, when we think of QTIs on the atomic scale, tremendous possibilities become apparent for devices that perform computation and information processing, possibly even at scales below that we can achieve today."

The researchers said the agreement between experiment and prediction offered promise that scientists are beginning to understand the physics of QTIs well enough for practical use.

"As theoretical physicists, Wladimir and I could predict the existence of this new form of matter, but no material has been found to have these properties so far," Hughes said. "Collaborating with engineers helped turn our prediction into reality."

###

The National Science Foundation and U.S. Office of Naval Research supported this study.

Editor's notes:

To reach Gaurav Bahl, call 217-300-2194; bahl@illinois.edu.

To reach Taylor Hughes, call 217-333-1195; hughest@illinois.edu.

The paper "A quantized microwave quadrupole insulator with topologically protected corner states" is available online and from the U. of I. News Bureau.

DOI: 10.1038/nature25777

Media Contact

Lois E Yoksoulian
leyok@illinois.edu
217-244-2788

 @NewsAtIllinois

http://www.illinois.edu 

Lois E Yoksoulian | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Electrons atomic scale crystals insulators microwave radiation

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Scientists create a nanomaterial that is both twisted and untwisted at the same time
16.09.2019 | University of Bath

nachricht New metamaterial morphs into new shapes, taking on new properties
12.09.2019 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Tomorrow´s coolants of choice

Scientists assess the potential of magnetic-cooling materials

Later during this century, around 2060, a paradigm shift in global energy consumption is expected: we will spend more energy for cooling than for heating....

Im Focus: The working of a molecular string phone

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Potsdam (both in Germany) and the University of Toronto (Canada) have pieced together a detailed time-lapse movie revealing all the major steps during the catalytic cycle of an enzyme. Surprisingly, the communication between the protein units is accomplished via a water-network akin to a string telephone. This communication is aligned with a ‘breathing’ motion, that is the expansion and contraction of the protein.

This time-lapse sequence of structures reveals dynamic motions as a fundamental element in the molecular foundations of biology.

Im Focus: Milestones on the Way to the Nuclear Clock

Two research teams have succeeded simultaneously in measuring the long-sought Thorium nuclear transition, which enables extremely precise nuclear clocks. TU Wien (Vienna) is part of both teams.

If you want to build the most accurate clock in the world, you need something that "ticks" very fast and extremely precise. In an atomic clock, electrons are...

Im Focus: Graphene sets the stage for the next generation of THz astronomy detectors

Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology have demonstrated a detector made from graphene that could revolutionize the sensors used in next-generation space telescopes. The findings were recently published in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy.

Beyond superconductors, there are few materials that can fulfill the requirements needed for making ultra-sensitive and fast terahertz (THz) detectors for...

Im Focus: Physicists from Stuttgart prove the existence of a supersolid state of matte

A supersolid is a state of matter that can be described in simplified terms as being solid and liquid at the same time. In recent years, extensive efforts have been devoted to the detection of this exotic quantum matter. A research team led by Tilman Pfau and Tim Langen at the 5th Institute of Physics of the University of Stuttgart has succeeded in proving experimentally that the long-sought supersolid state of matter exists. The researchers report their results in Nature magazine.

In our everyday lives, we are familiar with matter existing in three different states: solid, liquid, or gas. However, if matter is cooled down to extremely...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Society 5.0: putting humans at the heart of digitalisation

10.09.2019 | Event News

Interspeech 2019 conference: Alexa and Siri in Graz

04.09.2019 | Event News

AI for Laser Technology Conference: optimizing the use of lasers with artificial intelligence

29.08.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Too much of a good thing: overactive immune cells trigger inflammation

16.09.2019 | Life Sciences

Scientists create a nanomaterial that is both twisted and untwisted at the same time

16.09.2019 | Materials Sciences

Researchers have identified areas of the retina that change in mild Alzheimer's disease

16.09.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>