They're not exactly the peanut butter and jelly of semiconductors, but when you put them together, something magical happens.
Alone, neither lanthanum aluminate nor strontium titanate exhibit any particularly notable properties. But when they are layered together, they become not only conductive, but also magnetic.
In the current online edition of Nature Physics, researchers at The Ohio State University report the first-ever theoretical explanation to be offered for this phenomenon since it was discovered in 2004.
Understanding how these two semiconductors interact at their interface could someday lead to a different kind of material—one that provides a single platform for computation and data storage, said Mohit Randeria, co-author of the paper and professor of physics at Ohio State.
"The whole question is, how can you take two materials which do not conduct electricity and do not have magnetic properties, make a sandwich out of them and—lo and behold—at the interface tween them, charge begins to flow and interesting magnetic effects happen?" he said.
"It's like taking two pieces of bread and putting them together and having the sandwich filling magically appear."
By making calculations and modeling the basic physical properties of both materials, Randeria's team has hit upon an explanation for the behavior that seems ironic: the interface between two non-magnetic materials exhibits magnetism.
The team showed how the elemental units of magnetism, called "local moments," are formed at the interface of the two materials. They then showed how these moments interact with the conducting electrons to give rise to a magnetic state in which the moments are arranged in an unusual spiral pattern.
If the physicists' explanation is correct, then perhaps someday, electronic devices could be constructed that exploit the interface between two oxides. Theoretically, such devices would combine the computational abilities of a silicon chip with the magnetic data storage abilities of permanent magnets like iron.
"If you had conduction and magnetism available in the same platform, it could be possible to integrate computer memory with data processing. Maybe different kinds of computation would be possible," Randeria said.
But those applications are a long way off. Right now, the physicists hope that their theoretical explanation for the strange magnetic behavior will enable other researchers to perform experiments and confirm it.
Randeria's coauthors included Ohio State postdoctoral researcher Sumilan Banerjee and former doctoral student Onur Erten, who graduated this summer and is about to begin a postdoctoral fellowship at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
This research was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and Ohio State's Center for Emergent Materials, one of a network of Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers funded by NSF.
Pam Frost Gorder | EurekAlert!
From the cosmos to fusion plasmas, PPPL presents findings at global APS gathering
13.11.2018 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
A two-atom quantum duet
12.11.2018 | Institute for Basic Science
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly
The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
14.11.2018 | Life Sciences
14.11.2018 | Earth Sciences
14.11.2018 | Medical Engineering