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Nano-sandwich triggers novel electron behavior
Date:5/5/2009

A material just six atoms thick in which electrons appear to be guided by conflicting laws of physics depending on their direction of travel has been discovered by a team of physicists at the University of California, Davis. Working with computational models, the team has found that the electrons in a thin layer of vanadium dioxide sandwiched between insulating sheets of titanium dioxide exhibit one set of properties when moving in forward-backward directions, and another set when moving left to right.

With its unique properties, the material could open up a new world of possibilities in the emerging field of spintronics technology, which takes advantage of the magnetic as well as the electric properties of electrons in the design of novel electronic devices.

A paper describing the material and its properties appears in the April 22 issue of Physical Review Letters.

"Our model is demonstrating a new kind of band structure [dynamics of electrons], which no one has been aware of before," said Warren Pickett, professor and chair of the physics department at UC Davis. "We think that some of the transport properties we're seeing in the material electrical conduction and conduction in a magnetic field will be different than anything seen before."

The discovery comes five years after a group at the University of Manchester in England first isolated graphene, a single-layer lattice of carbon atoms. That material, too, had unique electronic properties, and it sparked a huge surge of interest among physicists and materials scientists, who have published hundreds of papers on it. The team termed the behavior of electrons in graphene "Dirac-like" because of its similarity to the behavior of massless particles as described in an equation formulated by the illustrious theoretical physicist Paul Dirac.

Now Pickett and co-author Victor Pardo, a professor at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain who was a visiti
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Contact: Liese Greensfelder
lgreensfelder@ucdavis.edu
530-752-6101
University of California - Davis
Source:Eurekalert

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