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A 'nanoscale landscape' controls flow of surface electrons on a topological insulator
Date:10/25/2012

re of a 3D topological insulator."

"What we've discovered is that electrons respond beautifully to this buckling of the material's surface," said Madhavan, the project director.

So harmoniously do the waves flow across the ripples placed approximately 100 nanometers apart that the researchers say further modifications of the crystal's "nanoscale landscape" could produce enough control to produce a one-dimensional quantum wire capable of carrying current with no dissipation.

The rippled surface appears to exert greater control and run less risk of creating imperfections than other methods, such as introducing chemical dopants, used in attempts to modulate the flow of electrons on the surface of other topological insulators, the researchers found.

Madhavan said the team had to provoke the electrons, which lay placidly atop the surface-state of the insulator, much like the glassy surface of an undisturbed lake. The team disrupted the electrons by introducing impurities, which had an effect similar to that of dropping a stone in a calm lake. This provocation produced waves of electrons that behave like waves of light as they travel pathways that mirror the contours created in the crystal.

"We did not expect the electrons to follow the topography," said Madhavan. "The topography imposes a sinusoidal potential upon the waves. The ripples create that potential by giving the electrons a landscape to follow. This is a way of possibly manipulating these electrons in topological insulators."


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Contact: Ed Hayward
ed.hayward@bc.edu
617-552-4826
Boston College
Source:Eurekalert

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