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  • richardmitnick 4:24 pm on December 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From SLAC: “First Direct Evidence that a Mysterious Phase of Matter Competes with High-Temperature Superconductivity” 

    SLAC Lab

    December 19, 2014

    SLAC Study Shows “Pseudogap” Phase Hoards Electrons that Might Otherwise Conduct Electricity with 100 Percent Efficiency

    Scientists have found the first direct evidence that a mysterious phase of matter known as the “pseudogap” competes with high-temperature superconductivity, robbing it of electrons that otherwise might pair up to carry current through a material with 100 percent efficiency.

    The result, led by researchers at Stanford University and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, is the culmination of 20 years of research aimed at finding out whether the pseudogap helps or hinders superconductivity, which could transform society by making electrical transmission, computing and other areas much more energy efficient.

    This illustration shows the complex relationship between high-temperature superconductivity (SC) and a mysterious phase called the pseudogap (PG). Copper oxide materials become superconducting when an optimal number of electrons are removed, leaving positively charged “holes,” and the material is chilled below a transition temperature (blue curve). This causes remaining electrons (yellow) to pair up and conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency. Experiments at SLAC have produced the first direct evidence that the pseudogap competes for electrons with superconductivity over a wide range of temperatures at lower hole concentrations (SC+PG). At lower temperatures and higher hole concentrations, superconductivity wins out. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

    The new study definitively shows that the pseudogap is one of the things that stands in the way of getting superconductors to work at higher temperatures for everyday uses, said lead author Makoto Hashimoto, a staff scientist at SLAC’s Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL), the DOE Office of Science User Facility where the experiments were carried out. The results were published in Nature Materials.


    “Now we have clear, smoking-gun evidence that the pseudogap phase competes with and suppresses superconductivity,” Hashimoto said. “If we can somehow remove this competition, or handle it better, we may be able to raise the operating temperatures of these superconductors.”

    Tracking Down Electrons

    In the experiments, researchers used a technique called angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy, or ARPES, to knock electrons out of a copper oxide material, one of a handful of materials that superconduct at relatively high temperatures – although they still have to be chilled to at least minus 135 degrees Celsius.

    Plotting the energies and momenta of the ejected electrons tells researchers how they were behaving when they were inside the material. In metals, for instance, electrons freely flow around and between atoms. In insulators, they stick close to their home atoms. And in superconductors, electrons leave their usual positions and pair up to conduct electricity with zero resistance and 100 percent efficiency; the missing electrons leave a characteristic gap in the researchers’ plots.

    But in the mid-1990s, scientists discovered another, puzzling gap in their plots of copper oxide superconductors. This “pseudogap” looked like the one left by superconducting electrons, but it showed up at temperatures too warm for superconductivity to occur. Was it a lead-in to superconducting behavior? A rival state that held superconductivity at bay? Where did it come from? No one knew.

    “It’s a complex, intimate relationship. These two phenomena likely share the same roots but are ultimately antagonistic,” said Zhi-Xun Shen, a professor at SLAC and Stanford and senior author of the study. “When the pseudogap is winning, superconductivity is losing ground.”

    Evidence of Competition

    Shen and his colleagues have been using ARPES to investigate the pseudogap ever since it showed up, refining their techniques over the years to pry more information out of the flying electrons.

    In this latest study, Hashimoto was able to find out exactly what was happening at the moment the material transitioned into a superconducting state. He did this by measuring not only the energies and momenta of the electrons, but the number of electrons coming out of the material with particular energies over a wide range of temperatures, and after the electronic properties of the material had been altered in various ways.

    He discovered clear, strong evidence that at this crucial transition temperature, the pseudogap and superconductivity are competing for electrons. Theoretical calculations by members of the team were able to reproduce this complex relationship.

    “The pseudogap tends to eat away the electrons that want to go into the superconducting state,” explained Thomas Devereaux, a professor at Stanford and SLAC and co-author of the study. “The electrons are busy doing the dance of the pseudogap, and superconductivity is trying to cut in, but the electrons are not letting that happen. Then, as the material goes into the superconducting state, the pseudogap gives up and spits the electrons back out. That’s really the strongest evidence we have that this competition is occurring.”

    Remaining Mysteries

    Scientists still don’t know what causes the pseudogap, Devereaux said: “This remains one of the most important questions in the field, because it’s clearly preventing superconductors from working at even higher temperatures, and we don’t know why.”

    But the results pave new directions for further research, the scientists said.

    “Now we can model the competition between the pseudogap and superconductivity from the theoretical side, which was not possible before,” Hashimoto said. “We can use simulations to reproduce the kinds of features we have seen, and change the variables within those simulations to try to pin down what the pseudogap is.”

    He added, “Competition may be only one aspect of the relationship between the two states. There may be more profound questions – for example, whether the pseudogap is necessary for superconductivity to occur.”

    In addition to SLAC and Stanford, researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Osaka University, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, Tokyo Institute of Technology, University of Tokyo and Cornell University contributed to the study. The research was supported by the DOE Office of Science.

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    SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, California, SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the DOE’s Office of Science.

  • richardmitnick 5:08 pm on December 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From LBL: “Switching to Spintronics” 

    Berkeley Logo

    Berkeley Lab

    December 17, 2014
    Lynn Yarris (510) 486-5375

    In a development that holds promise for future magnetic memory and logic devices, researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Cornell University successfully used an electric field to reverse the magnetization direction in a multiferroic spintronic device at room temperature. This demonstration, which runs counter to conventional scientific wisdom, points a new way towards spintronics. and smaller, faster and cheaper ways of storing and processing data.

    Conceptual illustration of how magnetism is reversed (see compass) by the application of an electric field (blue dots) applied across gold capacitors. Blurring of compass needles under electric field represents two-step process. (Image courtesy of John Heron, Cornell)

    “Our work shows that 180-degree magnetization switching in the multiferroic bismuth ferrite can be achieved at room temperature with an external electric field when the kinetics of the switching involves a two-step process,” says Ramamoorthy Ramesh, Berkeley Lab’s Associate Laboratory Director for Energy Technologies, who led this research. “We exploited this multi-step switching process to demonstrate energy-efficient control of a spintronic device.”

    Ramesh, who also holds the Purnendu Chatterjee Endowed Chair in Energy Technologies at the University of California (UC) Berkeley, is the senior author of a paper describing this research in Nature. The paper is titled Deterministic switching of ferromagnetism at room temperature using an electric field. John Heron, now with Cornell University, is the lead and corresponding author. (See below for full list of co-authors).

    Ramamoorthy Ramesh is Berkeley Lab’s Associate Laboratory Director for Energy Technologies, a UC Berkeley professor, and a leading authority on multiferroics. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt)

    Multiferroics are materials in which unique combinations of electric and magnetic properties can simultaneously coexist. They are viewed as potential cornerstones in future data storage and processing devices because their magnetism can be controlled by an electric field rather than an electric current, a distinct advantage as Heron explains.

    “The electrical currents that today’s memory and logic devices rely on to generate a magnetic field are the primary source of power consumption and heating in these devices,” he says. “This has triggered significant interest in multiferroics for their potential to reduce energy consumption while also adding functionality to devices.”

    Nature, however, has imposed thermodynamic barriers and material symmetry constrains that theorists believed would prevent the reversal of magnetization in a multiferroic by an applied electric field. Earlier work by Ramesh and his group with bismuth ferrite, the only known thermodynamically stable room-temperature multiferroic, in which an electric field was used as on/off switch for magnetism, suggested that the kinetics of the switching process might be a way to overcome these barriers, something not considered in prior theoretical work.

    “Having made devices and done on/off switching with in-plane electric fields in the past, it was a natural extension to study what happens when an out-of-plane electric field is applied,” Ramesh says.

    Ramesh, Heron and their co-authors set up a theoretical study in which an out-of-plane electric field – meaning it ran perpendicular to the orientation of the sample – was applied to bismuth ferrite films. They discovered a two-step switching process that relies on ferroelectric polarization and the rotation of the oxygen octahedral.

    John Heron is the lead author of a Nature paper describing the switching of ferromagnetism at room temperature using an electric field.

    “The two-step switching process is key as it allows the octahedral rotation to couple to the polarization,” Heron says. “The oxygen octahedral rotation is also critical because it is the mechanism responsible for the ferromagnetism in bismuth ferrite. Rotation of the oxygen octahedral also allows us to couple bismuth ferrite to a good ferromagnet such as cobalt-iron for use in a spintronic device.”

    To demonstrate the potential technological applicability of their technique, Ramesh, Heron and their co-authors used heterostructures of bismuth ferrite and cobalt iron to fabricate a spin-valve, a spintronic device consisting of a non-magnetic material sandwiched between two ferromagnets whose electrical resistance can be readily changed. X-ray magnetic circular dichroism photoemission electron microscopy (XMCD-PEEM) images showed a clear correlation between magnetization switching and the switching from high-to-low electrical resistance in the spin-valve. The XMCD-PEEM measurements were completed at PEEM-3, an aberration corrected photoemission electron microscope at beamline 11.0.1 of Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source.

    LBL Advanced Light Source
    LBL ALS interior

    “We also demonstrated that using an out-of-plane electric field to control the spin-valve consumed energy at a rate of about one order of magnitude lower than switching the device using a spin-polarized current,” Ramesh says.

    In addition to Ramesh and Heron, other co-authors of the Nature paper were James Bosse, Qing He, Ya Gao, Morgan Trassin, Linghan Ye, James Clarkson, Chen Wang, Jian Liu, Sayeef Salahuddin, Dan Ralph, Darrell Schlom, Jorge Iniguez and Bryan Huey.

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  • richardmitnick 6:57 pm on December 8, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From BNL: “Unusual Electronic State Found in New Class of Unconventional Superconductors” 

    Brookhaven Lab

    December 8, 2014
    Karen McNulty Walsh, (631) 344-8350 or Peter Genzer, (631) 344-3174

    Finding gives scientists a new group of materials to explore to unlock secrets of some materials’ ability to carry current with no energy loss

    A team of scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, Columbia Engineering, Columbia Physics and Kyoto University has discovered an unusual form of electronic order in a new family of unconventional superconductors. The finding, described in the journal Nature Communications, establishes an unexpected connection between this new group of titanium-oxypnictide superconductors and the more familiar cuprates and iron-pnictides, providing scientists with a whole new family of materials from which they can gain deeper insights into the mysteries of high-temperature superconductivity.

    Team members conducting research at Brookhaven Lab, led by Simon Billinge of Brookhaven and Columbia Engineering (seated), included (l to r) Columbia U graduate student Ben Frandsen and Weiguo Yin, Yimei Zhu, and Emil Bozin of Brookhaven’s Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science Department. They used the aberation-corrected electron microscope in Zhu’s lab to conduct electron diffraction experiments that were a key component of this study. Collaborators not shown: Hefei Hu, formerly of Brookhaven Lab and now at Intel, Yasumasa Nozaki and Hiroshi Kageyama of Kyoto University, and Yasutomo Uemura of Columbia.

    “Finding this new material is a bit like an archeologist finding a new Egyptian pharaoh’s tomb,” said Simon Billinge, a physicist at Brookhaven Lab and Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, who led the research team. “As we try and solve the mysteries behind unconventional superconductivity, we need to discover different but related systems to give us a more complete picture of what is going on—just as a new tomb will turn up treasures not found before, giving a more complete picture of ancient Egyptian society.”

    Harnessing the power of superconductivity, or the ability of certain materials to conduct electricity with zero energy loss, is one of the most exciting possibilities for creating a more energy-efficient future. But because most superconductors only work at very low temperatures—just a few degrees above absolute zero, or -273 degrees Celsius—they are not yet useful for everyday life. The discovery in the 1980s of “high-temperature” superconductors that work at warmer temperatures (though still not room temperature) was a giant step forward, offering scientists the hope that a complete understanding of what enables these materials to carry loss-free current would help them design new materials for everyday applications. Each new discovery of a common theme among these materials is helping scientists unlock pieces of the puzzle.

    One of the greatest mysteries is seeking to understand how the electrons in high-temperature superconductors interact, sometimes trying to avoid each other and at other times pairing up—the crucial characteristic enabling them to carry current with no resistance. Scientists studying these materials at Brookhaven and elsewhere have discovered special types of electronic states, such as “charge density waves,” where charges huddle to form stripes, and checkerboard patterns of charge. Both of these break the “translational symmetry” of the material—the repetition of sameness as you move across the surface (e.g., moving across a checkerboard you move from white squares to black squares).

    Another pattern scientists have observed in the two most famous classes of high-temperature superconductors is broken rotational symmetry without a change in translational symmetry. In this case, called nematic order, every space on the checkerboard is white, but the shapes of the spaces are distorted from a square to a rectangle; as you turn round and round on one space, your neighboring space is nearer or farther depending on the direction you are facing. Having observed this unexpected state in the cuprates and iron-pnictides, scientists were eager to see whether this unusual electronic order would also be observed in a new class of titanium-oxypnictide high-temperature superconductors discovered in 2013.

    “These titanium-oxypnictide compounds are structurally similar to the other exotic superconductor systems, and they had all the telltale signs of a broken symmetry, such as anomalies in resistivity and thermodynamic measurements. But there was no sign of any kind of charge density wave in any previous measurement. It was a mystery,” said Emil Bozin, whose group at Brookhaven specializes in searching for hidden local broken symmetries. “It was a natural for us to jump on this problem.”

    Top: Ripples extending down the chain of atoms breaks translational symmetry (like a checkerboard with black and white squares), which would cause extra spots in the diffraction pattern (shown as red dots in the underlying diffraction pattern). Bottom: Stretching along one direction breaks rotational symmetry but not translational symmetry (like a checkerboard with identical squares but stretched in one of the directions), causing no additional diffraction spots. The experiments proved these new superconductors have the second type of electron density distribution, called a nematic. Image credit: Ben Frandsen

    The team searched for the broken rotational symmetry effect, a research question that had been raised by Tomo Uemura of Columbia, using samples provided by his collaborators in the group of Hiroshi Kageyama at Kyoto University. They conducted two kinds of diffraction studies: neutron scattering experiments at the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center (LANSCE) at DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, and electron diffraction experiments using a transmission electron microscope at Brookhaven Lab.

    “We used these techniques to observe the pattern formed by beams of particles shot through powder samples of the superconductors under a range of temperatures and other conditions to see if there’s a structural change that corresponds to the formation of this special type of nematic state,” said Ben Frandsen, a graduate student in physics at Columbia and first author on the paper.

    The experiments revealed a telltale symmetry breaking distortion at low temperature. A collaborative effort among experimentalists and theorists established the particular nematic nature of the order.

    “Critical in this study was the fact that we could rapidly bring to bear multiple complementary experimental methods, together with crucial theoretical insights—something made easy by having most of the expertise in residence at Brookhaven Lab and wonderfully strong collaborations with colleagues at Columbia and beyond,” Billinge said.

    The discovery of nematicity in titanium-oxypnictides, together with the fact that their structural and chemical properties bridge those of the cuprate and iron-pnictide high-temperature superconductors, render these materials an important new system to help understand the role of electronic symmetry breaking in superconductivity.

    As Billinge noted, “This new pharaoh’s tomb indeed contained a treasure: nematicity.”

    This work was supported by the DOE Office of Science, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF, OISE-0968226), the Japan Society of the Promotion of Science, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, and the Friends of Todai Inc.

    See the full article here.

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    One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. The Laboratory’s almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff are joined each year by more than 5,000 visiting researchers from around the world.Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

  • richardmitnick 7:51 pm on December 4, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From SLAC: “Rattled Atoms Mimic High-temperature Superconductivity” 

    SLAC Lab

    December 4, 2014

    X-ray Laser Experiment Provides First Look at Changes in Atomic Structure that Support Superconductivity

    An experiment at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory provided the first fleeting glimpse of the atomic structure of a material as it entered a state resembling room-temperature superconductivity – a long-sought phenomenon in which materials might conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency under everyday conditions.

    In a high-temperature superconducting material known as YBCO, light from a laser causes oxygen atoms (red) to vibrate between layers of copper oxide that are just two molecules thick. (The copper atoms are shown in blue.) This jars atoms in those layers out of their normal positions in a way that likely favors superconductivity. In this short-lived state, the distance between copper oxide planes within a layer increases, while the distance between the layers decreases. (Jörg Harms/Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter)

    Researchers used a specific wavelength of laser light to rattle the atomic structure of a material called yttrium barium copper oxide, or YBCO. Then they probed the resulting changes in the structure with an X-ray laser beam from the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), a DOE Office of Science User Facility.

    SLAC LCLS Inside
    LCLS at SLAC

    They discovered that the initial exposure to laser light triggered specific shifts in copper and oxygen atoms that squeezed and stretched the distances between them, creating a temporary alignment that exhibited signs of superconductivity for a few trillionths of a second at well above room temperature – up to 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit). The scientists coupled data from the experiment with theory to show how these changes in atomic positions allow a transfer of electrons that drives the superconductivity.

    New Views of Atoms in Motion

    “This is a highly interesting state, even though it only exists for a short period of time,” said Roman Mankowsky of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg, Germany, who was lead author of a report on the experiment in the Dec. 4 print issue of Nature. “When the laser excites the material, it shifts the atoms and changes the structure. We hope these results will ultimately help in the design of new materials to enhance superconductivity.”

    Sustaining such a state at room temperature would revolutionize many fields, making the electrical grid more efficient and enabling more powerful and compact computers. Traditional superconductors operate only at temperatures close to absolute zero. YBCO is one of a handful of materials discovered since 1986 that superconduct at somewhat higher temperatures; but they still have to be chilled to at least minus 135 degrees Celsius in order to sustain superconductivity, and scientists still don’t know what allows these so-called high-temperature superconductors to carry electricity with zero resistance.

    A Powerful Tool for Exploring Superconductivity

    Josh Turner, a SLAC staff scientist who has led other studies of YBCO at the LCLS, said powerful tools such as X-ray lasers have excited new interest in superconductor research by allowing researchers to isolate a specific property that they want to learn more about. This is important because high-temperature superconductors can exhibit a tangle of magnetic, electronic and structural properties that may compete or cooperate as the material moves toward a superconducting state. For example, another recently published LCLS study found that exciting YBCO with the same optical laser light disrupts an electronic order that competes with superconductivity.

    “What LCLS is now showing us is how these different properties change over short times,” Turner said. “We can actually see how the electrons or atoms are moving.”

    Mankowsky said future experiments at LCLS could try to sustain the superconducting state for longer periods, use a combination of experimental techniques to study how other properties evolve in the transition into the superconducting state and explore whether the same structural changes are at work in other high-temperature superconductors.

    Researchers from the National Center for Scientific Research in France, Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland, Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Germany, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, College of France, University of Geneva, Oxford University in the United Kingdom, the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Germany, and University of Hamburg in Germany also participated in the study. The work was supported by the European Research Council, German Science Foundation, Swiss National Superconducting Center and Swiss National Science Foundation.

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  • richardmitnick 5:07 pm on November 25, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From LLNL: “Lawrence Livermore researchers develop efficient method to produce nanoporous metals” 

    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    Nov. 25, 2014

    Kenneth K Ma

    Nanoporous metals — foam-like materials that have some degree of air vacuum in their structure — have a wide range of applications because of their superior qualities.

    They posses a high surface area for better electron transfer, which can lead to the improved performance of an electrode in an electric double capacitor or battery. Nanoporous metals offer an increased number of available sites for the adsorption of analytes, a highly desirable feature for sensors.

    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) researchers have developed a cost-effective and more efficient way to manufacture nanoporous metals over many scales, from nanoscale to macroscale, which is visible to the naked eye.

    The process begins with a four-inch silicon wafer. A coating of metal is added and sputtered across the wafer. Gold, silver and aluminum were used for this research project. However, the manufacturing process is not limited to these metals.

    Next, a mixture of two polymers is added to the metal substrate to create patterns, a process known as diblock copolymer lithography (BCP). The pattern is transformed in a single polymer mask with nanometer-size features. Last, a technique known as anisotropic ion beam milling (IBM) is used to etch through the mask to make an array of holes, creating the nanoporous metal.

    During the fabrication process, the roughness of the metal is continuously examined to ensure that the finished product has good porosity, which is key to creating the unique properties that make nanoporous materials work. The rougher the metal is, the less evenly porous it becomes.

    “During fabrication, our team achieved 92 percent pore coverage with 99 percent uniformity over a 4-in silicon wafer, which means the metal was smooth and evenly porous,” said Tiziana Bond, an LLNL engineer who is a member of the joint research team.

    Tiziana Bond

    The team has defined a metric — based on a parametrized correlation between BCP pore coverage and metal surface roughness — by which the fabrication of nanoporous metals should be stopped when uneven porosity is the known outcome, saving processing time and costs.

    “The real breakthrough is that we created a new technique to manufacture nanoporous metals that is cheap and can be done over many scales avoiding the lift-off technique to remove metals, with real-time quality control,” Bond said. “These metals open the application space to areas such as energy harvesting, sensing and electrochemical studies.”

    The lift-off technique is a method of patterning target materials on the surface of a substrate by using a sacrificial material. One of the biggest problems with this technique is that the metal layer cannot be peeled off uniformly (or at all) at the nanoscale.

    The research team’s findings were reported in an article titled Manufacturing over many scales: High fidelity macroscale coverage of nanoporous metal arrays via lift-off-free nanofrabication. It was the cover story in a recent issue of Advanced Materials Interfaces.


    Other applications of nanoporous metals include supporting the development of new metamaterials (engineered materials) for radiation-enhanced filtering and manipulation, including deep ultraviolet light. These applications are possible because nanoporous materials facilitate anomalous enhancement of transmitted (or reflected) light through the tunneling of surface plasmons, a feature widely usable by light-emitting devices, plasmonic lithography, refractive-index-based sensing and all-optical switching.

    The other team members include ETH researcher Ali Ozhan Altun and professor Hyung Gyu Park.

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  • richardmitnick 4:34 pm on November 24, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From ORNL: “Materials researchers get first look at atom-thin boundaries” 


    Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    November 24, 2014
    Morgan McCorkle
    Communications and Media Relations

    Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have made the first direct observations of a one-dimensional boundary separating two different, atom-thin materials, enabling studies of long-theorized phenomena at these interfaces.

    Theorists have predicted the existence of intriguing properties at one-dimensional (1-D) boundaries between two crystalline components, but experimental verification has eluded researchers because atomically precise 1-D interfaces are difficult to construct.

    Theorists have predicted the existence of intriguing properties at one-dimensional (1-D) boundaries between two crystalline components, but experimental verification has eluded researchers because atomically precise 1-D interfaces are difficult to construct.

    “While many theoretical studies of such 1-D interfaces predict striking behaviors, in our work we have provided the first experimental validation of those interface properties,” said ORNL’s An-Ping Li.

    The new Nature Communications study builds on work by ORNL and University of Tennessee scientists published in Science earlier this year that introduced a method to grow different two-dimensional materials – graphene and boron nitride – into a single layer only one atom thick.

    graphene is an atomic-scale honeycomb lattice made of carbon atoms

    The team’s materials growth technique unlocked the ability to study the 1-D boundary and its electronic properties in atomic resolution. Using scanning tunneling microscopy, spectroscopy and density-functional calculations, the researchers first obtained a comprehensive picture of spatial and energetic distributions of the 1-D interface states.

    “In three-dimensional (3-D) systems, the interface is embedded so you cannot get a real-space view of the complete interface – you can only look at a projection of that plane,” said Jewook Park, ORNL postdoctoral researcher and the lead author of the work. “In our case, the 1-D interface is completely accessible to real-space study,”

    “The combination of scanning tunneling microscopy and the first principles theory calculations allows us to distinguish the chemical nature of the boundary and evaluate the effects of orbital hybridization at the junction,” said ORNL’s Mina Yoon, a theorist on the team.

    The researchers’ observations revealed a highly confined electric field at the interface and provided an opportunity to investigate an intriguing phenomenon known as a “polar catastrophe,” which occurs in 3-D oxide interfaces. This effect can cause atomic and electron reorganization at the interface to compensate for the electrostatic field resulting from materials’ different polarities.

    “This is the first time we have been able to study the polar discontinuity effect in a 1-D boundary,” Li said.

    Although the researchers focused on gaining a fundamental understanding of the system, they note their study could culminate in applications that take advantage of the 1-D interface.

    “For instance, the 1-D chain of electrons could be exploited to pass a current along the boundary,” Li said. “It could be useful for electronics, especially for ultra-thin or flexible devices.”

    The team plans to continue examining different aspects of the boundary including its magnetic properties and the effect of its supporting substrate.

    The study is published as Spatially resolved one-dimensional boundary states in graphene–hexagonal boron nitride planar heterostructures. Coauthors are ORNL’s Jewook Park, Jaekwang Lee, Corentin Durand, Changwon Park, Bobby Sumpter, Arthur Baddorf, Mina Yoon and An-Ping Li; the University of Tennessee’s Lei Liu, Ali Mohsin, and Gong Gu; and Central Methodist University’s Kendal Clark.

    This research was conducted in part at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, both DOE Office of Science User Facilities. The research was supported by DOE’s Office of Science, ORNL’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program, the National Science Foundation and DARPA.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 4:28 pm on November 20, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From MIT: “Controlling a material with voltage” 

    MIT News

    November 20, 2014
    David L. Chandler | MIT News Office

    Technique could let a small electrical signal change materials’ electrical, thermal, and optical characteristics.

    A new way of switching the magnetic properties of a material using just a small applied voltage, developed by researchers at MIT and collaborators elsewhere, could signal the beginning of a new family of materials with a variety of switchable properties, the researchers say.

    This diagram shows the principle behind using voltage to change material properties. In this sandwich of materials, applying a voltage results in movement of ions — electrically charged atoms — from the middle, functional layer of material into the target layer. This modifies some of the properties — magnetic, thermal, or optical — of the target material, and the changes remain after the voltage is removed. Diagram courtesy of the researchers; edited by Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

    The technique could ultimately be used to control properties other than magnetism, including reflectivity or thermal conductivity, they say. The first application of the new finding is likely to be a new kind of memory chip that requires no power to maintain data once it’s written, drastically lowering its overall power needs. This could be especially useful for mobile devices, where battery life is often a major limitation.

    The findings were published this week in the journal Nature Materials by MIT doctoral student Uwe Bauer, associate professor Geoffrey Beach, and six other co-authors.

    Beach, the Class of ’58 Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, says the work is the culmination of Bauer’s PhD thesis research on voltage-programmable materials. The work could lead to a new kind of nonvolatile, ultralow-power memory chips, Beach says.

    The concept of using an electrical signal to control a magnetic memory element is the subject of much research by chip manufacturers, Beach says. But the MIT-based team has made important strides in making the technique practical, he says.

    The structure of these devices is similar to that of a capacitor, Beach explains, with two thin layers of conductive material separated by an insulating layer. The insulating layer is so thin that under certain conditions, electrons can tunnel right through it.

    But unlike in a capacitor, the conductive layers in these low-power chips are magnetized. In the new device, one conductive layer has fixed magnetization, but the other can be toggled between two magnetic orientations by applying a voltage to it. When the magnetic orientations are aligned, it is easier for electrons to tunnel from one layer to the other; when they have opposite orientations, the device is more insulating. These states can be used to represent “zero” and “one.”

    The work at MIT shows that it takes just a small voltage to flip the state of the device — which then retains its new state even after power is switched off. Conventional memory devices require a continuous source of power to maintain their state.

    The MIT team was able to design a system in which voltage changes the magnetic properties 100 times more powerfully than other groups have been able to achieve; this strong change in magnetism makes possible the long-term stability of the new memory cells.

    They achieved this by using an insulating layer made of an oxide material in which the applied voltage can rearrange the locations of the oxygen ions. They showed that the properties of the magnetic layer could be changed dramatically by moving the oxygen ions back and forth near the interface.

    The team is now working to ramp up the speed at which these changes can be made to the memory elements. They have already reached rates of a megahertz (millions of times per second) in switching, but a fully competitive memory module will require further increase on the order of a hundredfold to a thousandfold, they say.

    The team also found that the magnetic properties could be changed using a pulse of laser light that heats the oxide layer, helping the oxygen ions to move more easily. The laser beam used to alter the state of the material can scan across its surface, making changes as it goes.

    The same techniques could be used to alter other properties of materials, Beach explains, such as reflectivity or thermal conductivity. Such properties can ordinarily be changed only through mechanical or chemical processing. “All these properties could come under electrical control, to be switched on and off, and even ‘written’ using a beam of light,” Beach says. This ability to make such changes on the fly essentially produces “an Etch-a-Sketch for material properties,” he says.The new findings “started as a fluke,” Beach says: Bauer was experimenting with the layered material, expecting to see standard temporary capacitive effects from an applied voltage. “But he turned off the voltage and it stayed that way,” with a reversed magnetic state, Beach says, leading to further investigation.

    “I think this will have broad applications,” Beach says, adding that it uses methods and materials that are already standard in microchip manufacturing.

    In addition to Bauer and Beach, the team included Lide Yao and Sebastiaan van Dijken of Aalto University in Finland and, at MIT, graduate students Aik Jun Tan, Parnika Agrawal, and Satoru Emori and professor of ceramics and electronic materials Harry Tuller. The work was supported by the National Science Foundation and Samsung.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 4:12 pm on November 20, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Material Sciences, ,   

    From MIT: “New 2-D quantum materials for nanoelectronics” 

    MIT News

    November 20, 2014
    David L. Chandler | MIT News Office

    MIT team provides theoretical roadmap to making 2-D electronics with novel properties.

    Researchers at MIT say they have carried out a theoretical analysis showing that a family of two-dimensional materials exhibits exotic quantum properties that may enable a new type of nanoscale electronics.

    These materials are predicted to show a phenomenon called the quantum spin Hall (QSH) effect, and belong to a class of materials known as transition metal dichalcogenides, with layers a few atoms thick. The findings are detailed in a paper appearing this week in the journal Science, co-authored by MIT postdocs Xiaofeng Qian and Junwei Liu; assistant professor of physics Liang Fu; and Ju Li, a professor of nuclear science and engineering and materials science and engineering.

    This diagram illustrates the concept behind the MIT team’s vision of a new kind of electronic device based on 2-D materials. The 2-D material is at the middle of a layered “sandwich,” with layers of another material, boron nitride, at top and bottom (shown in gray). When an electric field is applied to the material, by way of the rectangular areas at top, it switches the quantum state of the middle layer (yellow areas). The boundaries of these “switched” regions act as perfect quantum wires, potentially leading to new electronic devices with low losses. Illustration: Yan Liang

    QSH materials have the unusual property of being electrical insulators in the bulk of the material, yet highly conductive on their edges. This could potentially make them a suitable material for new kinds of quantum electronic devices, many researchers believe.

    But only two materials with QSH properties have been synthesized, and potential applications of these materials have been hampered by two serious drawbacks: Their bandgap, a property essential for making transistors and other electronic devices, is too small, giving a low signal-to-noise ratio; and they lack the ability to switch rapidly on and off. Now the MIT researchers say they have found ways to potentially circumvent both obstacles using 2-D materials that have been explored for other purposes.

    Existing QSH materials only work at very low temperatures and under difficult conditions, Fu says, adding that “the materials we predicted to exhibit this effect are widely accessible. … The effects could be observed at relatively high temperatures.”

    “What is discovered here is a true 2-D material that has this [QSH] characteristic,” Li says. “The edges are like perfect quantum wires.”

    The MIT researchers say this could lead to new kinds of low-power quantum electronics, as well as spintronics devices — a kind of electronics in which the spin of electrons, rather than their electrical charge, is used to carry information.

    Graphene, a two-dimensional, one-atom-thick form of carbon with unusual electrical and mechanical properties, has been the subject of much research, which has led to further research on similar 2-D materials. But until now, few researchers have examined these materials for possible QSH effects, the MIT team says. “Two-dimensional materials are a very active field for a lot of potential applications,” Qian says — and this team’s theoretical work now shows that at least six such materials do share these QSH properties.

    Graphene is an atomic-scale honeycomb lattice made of carbon atoms.

    The MIT researchers studied materials known as transition metal dichalcogenides, a family of compounds made from the transition metals molybdenum or tungsten and the nonmetals tellurium, selenium, or sulfur. These compounds naturally form thin sheets, just atoms thick, that can spontaneously develop a dimerization pattern in their crystal structure. It is this lattice dimerization that produces the effects studied by the MIT team.

    While the new work is theoretical, the team produced a design for a new kind of transistor based on the calculated effects. Called a topological field-effect transistor, or TFET, the design is based on a single layer of the 2-D material sandwiched by two layers of 2-D boron nitride. The researchers say such devices could be produced at very high density on a chip and have very low losses, allowing high-efficiency operation.

    By applying an electric field to the material, the QSH state can be switched on and off, making possible a host of electronic and spintronic devices, they say.

    In addition, this is one of the most promising known materials for possible use in quantum computers, the researchers say. Quantum computing is usually susceptible to disruption — technically, a loss of coherence — from even very small perturbations. But, Li says, topological quantum computers “cannot lose coherence from small perturbations. It’s a big advantage for quantum information processing.”

    Because so much research is already under way on these 2-D materials for other purposes, methods of making them efficiently may be developed by other groups and could then be applied to the creation of new QSH electronic devices, Qian says.

    Nai Phuan Ong, a professor of physics at Princeton University who was not connected to this work, says, “Although some of the ideas have been mentioned before, the present system seems especially promising. This exciting result will bridge two very active subfields of condensed matter physics, topological insulators and dichalcogenides.”

    The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the STC Center for Integrated Quantum Materials. Qian and Liu contributed equally to the work.

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  • richardmitnick 4:24 pm on November 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From BNL: “Organic Crystal Film Grown on New Substrate Breaks Performance Record” 

    Brookhaven Lab

    November 18, 2014
    Laura Mgrdichian

    The study is an important step toward realizing mainstream organic electronic devices

    Many future electronic devices may be based not on standard conductors and semiconductors but rather on small organic (carbon-based) molecules and polymers. These organic electronics will have several advantages over conventional electronics, including being cheaper to fabricate, physically bendable and flexible, and, in some cases, can be created using printing methods – perhaps even in your own home.

    The field of organic electronics is still in its infancy, however, and scientists have much to learn before organic electronic devices are part of our everyday lives. One obstacle researchers have faced is how to successfully grow high-quality crystals of an organic molecule on top of a conventional substrate – without using a complex growth process or chemically modifying the substrate first. Solving this problem is the necessary first step to creating organic electronic circuits and devices.

    Organic two-dimensional heterostructure of rubrene/h-BN

    Recently, a research group made some significant headway. Working in part at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS), scientists from Columbia University, Harvard University, Brookhaven Lab, and Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science grew a high-quality, high-performing film of rubrene, an organic semiconductor, onto a substrate of hexagonal boron nitride, a layered crystalline material with hexagonally shaped molecular units (similar to graphite carbon). Their work, which they discuss in the May 14, 2014, edition of the journal Advanced Materials, is notable both due to the high-quality crystalline nature of the film and because the substrate is a new player in the field of organic electronics development.

    “The interface between the substrate and the molecular film is very important. It governs the initial nucleation during the growth of the film and also has a big impact on how the film will carry charge,” says Columbia researcher Phillip Kim, one of the paper’s authors. “Our film/substrate heterostructure yielded the highest mobility observed yet in similar systems. It is comparable to those of free-standing single crystals and represents a record for organic films grown on any substrates.”

    When paired with organic materials, conventional substrates like silicon oxide, glass, and plastic are too disordered at the molecular level and also don’t have molecular structures that are similar enough to the organic compounds. In materials science terms, they lack an “epitaxial” relationship. This discourages proper film growth and results in lower-quality films that lack long-range order. In everyday terms, this is kind of like trying to build a layer of Lego bricks on Lego board that doesn’t have an ordered grid of nubs.

    Kim and his colleagues showed that hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) has many advantages as a substrate for organic electronics. Using an approach called “van der Waals epitaxy,” a method that takes advantage of the weak van der Waals force between molecules, the group grew rubrene films varying from 5 to 1000 nanometers thick. They studied each sample’s structure and charge-carrying ability using several methods.

    Atomic force microscopy (AFM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) images suggested that the film was formed of large single-crystal domains. Selected area electron diffraction (SAED), which can be performed inside a transmission electron microscope, also confirmed this. But because SAED provides only local structural information, the group used grazing x-ray diffraction at NSLS beamline X9 to get a broader “view” of the structure. The x-ray data showed sharp, intense peaks, indicating that the sample contained a high-quality crystal structure.

    To study how the film carries charge, graphene electrical contacts were incorporated into the growth process, resulting in a field-effect transistor structure. Measuring the current across it showed that electrons traveling within it are highly mobile, meaning they don’t run into too many barriers caused by a “choppy” molecular structure.

    “Our study highlights the advantages of h-BN and similar materials over commonly used substrates to achieve high-performance organic electronic devices,” said Kim. “More generally, this approach to film growth – van der Waals epitaxy – could be used to fabricate organic/inorganic structures that can be readily expanded to numerous other organic and layered materials for various electronic applications.”

    This research was supported by: the Center for Redefining Photovoltaic Efficiency Through Molecule Scale Control, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences; the FAME Center, one of six centers of STARnet, a Semiconductor Research Corporation program sponsored by MARCO and DARPA; the Nano Material Technology Development Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning; the Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea; the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, under the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment, supported by the National Science Foundation.

    See the full article here.

    BNL Campus

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    One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. The Laboratory’s almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff are joined each year by more than 5,000 visiting researchers from around the world.Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

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  • richardmitnick 2:25 pm on November 12, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From SLAC: “Study at SLAC Explains Atomic Action in High-Temperature Superconductors “ 

    SLAC Lab

    November 12, 2014

    A study at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory suggests for the first time how scientists might deliberately engineer superconductors that work at higher temperatures.

    In their report, a team led by SLAC and Stanford University researchers explains why a thin layer of iron selenide superconducts — carries electricity with 100 percent efficiency — at much higher temperatures when placed atop another material, which is called STO for its main ingredients strontium, titanium and oxygen.

    In this illustration, a single layer of superconducting iron selenide (balls and sticks) has been placed stop another material known as STO for its main ingredients strontium, titanium and oxygen. The STO is shown as blue pyramids, which represent the arrangement of its atoms. A study at SLAC found that when natural vibrations (green glow) from the STO move up into the iron selenide film, electrons in the film (white spheres) can pair up and conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency at much higher temperatures than before. The results suggest a way to deliberately engineer superconductors that work at even higher temperatures. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

    This view from the side makes an important point: Putting iron selenide on top of STO enhances its superconductivity only if it’s applied in a single layer (left). When more than one layer is applied, the natural vibrations coming up from the STO layer don’t give electrons the boost of energy they need to pair up and superconduct (right). (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

    These findings, described today in the journal Nature, open a new chapter in the 30-year quest to develop superconductors that operate at room temperature, which could revolutionize society by making virtually everything that runs on electricity much more efficient. Although today’s high-temperature superconductors operate at much warmer temperatures than conventional superconductors do, they still work only when chilled to minus 135 degrees Celsius or below.

    In the new study, the scientists concluded that natural trillion-times-per-second vibrations in the STO travel up into the iron selenide film in distinct packets, like volleys of water droplets shaken off by a wet dog. These vibrations give electrons the energy they need to pair up and superconduct at higher temperatures than they would on their own.

    “Our simulations indicate that this approach – using natural vibrations in one material to boost superconductivity in another – could be used to raise the operating temperature of iron-based superconductors by at least 50 percent,” said Zhi-Xun Shen, a professor at SLAC and Stanford University and senior author of the study.

    While that’s still nowhere close to room temperature, he added, “We now have the first example of a mechanism that could be used to engineer high-temperature superconductors with atom-by-atom control and make them better.”

    Spying on Electrons

    The study probed a happy combination of materials developed two years ago by scientists in China. They discovered that when a single layer of iron selenide film is placed atop STO, its maximum superconducting temperature shoots up from 8 degrees to nearly 77 degrees above absolute zero (minus 196 degrees Celsius).

    While this was a huge and welcome leap, it would be hard to build on this advance without understanding what, exactly, was going on.

    In the new study, SLAC Staff Scientist Rob Moore and Stanford graduate student J.J. Lee and postdoctoral researcher Felix Schmitt built a system for growing iron selenide films just one layer thick on a base of STO.

    The team examined the combined material at SLAC’s Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, a DOE Office of Science User Facility. They used an exquisitely sensitive technique called ARPES to measure the energies and momenta of electrons ejected from samples hit with X-ray light. This tells scientists how the electrons inside the sample are behaving; in superconductors they pair up to conduct electricity without resistance. The researchers also got help from theorists who did simulations to help explain what they were seeing.

    SSRL at SLAC

    A Promising New Direction

    “This is a very impressive experiment, one that would have been very difficult to impossible to do anywhere else,” said Andrew Millis, a theoretical condensed matter physicist at Columbia University, who was not involved in the study. “And it’s clearly telling us something important about why putting one thin layer of iron selenide on this substrate, which everyone thought was inert and boring, changes things so dramatically. It opens lots of interesting questions, and it will definitely stimulate a lot of research.”

    Scientists still don’t know what holds electron pairs together so they can effortlessly carry current in high-temperature superconductors. With no way to deliberately invent new high-temperature superconductors or improve old ones, progress has been slow.

    The new results “point to a new direction that people have not considered before,” Moore said. “They have the potential to really break records in high-temperature superconductivity and give us a new understanding of things we’ve been struggling with for years.”

    He added that SLAC is developing a new X-ray beamline at SSRL with a more advanced ARPES system to create and study these and other exotic materials. “This paper predicts a new pathway to engineering superconductivity in these materials,” Moore said, “and we’re building the tools to do just that.”

    In addition to researchers from SLAC’s Materials Science Division and from Stanford, scientists from the University of British Columbia, the University of Tennessee, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley contributed to this study. The work was funded by the DOE Office of Science.

    See the full article here.

    SLAC Campus
    SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, California, SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the DOE’s Office of Science.

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