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McGill physicists find a new state of matter in a 'transistor'
Date:10/21/2008

This press release is available in French.

McGill University researchers have discovered a new state of matter, a quasi-three- dimensional electron crystal, in a material very much like those used in the fabrication of modern transistors. This discovery could have momentous implications for the development of new electronic devices. Currently, the number of transistors that can be inexpensively crammed onto a single computer chip increases exponentially, doubling approximately every two years, a trend known as Moore's Law. But there are limits, experts say. As chips get smaller and smaller, scientists expect that the bizarre laws and behaviours of quantum physics will take over, making ever-smaller chips impossible.

This discovery, and other similar efforts, could help the electronics industry once traditional manufacturing techniques approach these quantum limits over the next decade or so, the researchers said. Working with one of the purest semiconductor materials ever made, they discovered the quasi-three-dimensional electron crystal in a device cooled at ultra-low temperatures roughly 100 times colder than intergalactic space. The material was then exposed to the most powerful continuous magnetic fields generated on Earth. Their results were published in the October issue of the journal Nature Physics.

Two-dimensional electron crystals were discovered in the laboratory in the 1990s, and were predicted as far back as 1934 by renowned Hungarian physicist Eugene Wigner.

"Picture a sandwich, and the ham in the middle is your electrons," explained Dr. Guillaume Gervais, director of McGill's Ultra-Low Temperature Condensed Matter Experiment Lab. "In a 2D electron crystal, the electrons are squeezed between two materials and they're very two dimensional. They can move on a plane, like billiard balls on a pool table, but there's
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Contact: Mark Shainblum
mark.shainblum@mcgill.ca
514-398-2189
McGill University
Source:Eurekalert

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