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Material created at Purdue lets electrons 'dance' and form new state
Date:7/27/2011

d and built equipment called a high-mobility gallium-arsenide molecular beam epitaxy system, or MBE, that is housed at Purdue's Birck Nanotechnology Center. The equipment makes ultrapure semiconductor materials with atomic-layer precision. The material is a perfectly aligned lattice of gallium and arsenic atoms that can capture electrons on a two-dimensional plane, eliminating their ability to move up and down and limiting their movement to front-to-back and side-to-side.

"We are basically capturing the electrons within microscopic wells and forcing them to interact only with each other," he said. "The material must be very pure to accomplish this. Any impurities that made their way in would cause the electrons to scatter and ruin the fragile correlated state."

The electrons also need to be cooled to extremely low temperatures and a magnetic field is applied to achieve the desired conditions to reach the correlated state.

Gabor Csathy, an assistant professor of physics, is able to cool the material and electrons to 5 millikelvin - close to absolute zero or 460 degrees below zero Fahrenheit - using special equipment in his lab.

"At room temperature, electrons are known to behave like billiard balls on a pool table, bouncing off of the sides and off of each other, and obey the laws of classical mechanics," Csathy said. "As the temperature is lowered, electrons calm down and become aware of the presence of neighboring electrons. A collective motion of the electrons is then possible, and this collective motion is described by the laws of quantum mechanics."

The electrons do a complex dance to try to find the best arrangement for them to achieve the minimum energy level and eventually form new patterns, or ground states, he said.

Csathy, who specializes in quantum transport in semiconductors, takes the difficult measurements of the electrons' movement. The standard metric of semiconductor quality is electron mobilit
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Contact: Elizabeth K. Gardner
ekgardner@purdue.edu
765-494-2081
Purdue University
Source:Eurekalert  

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