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Search for advanced materials aided by discovery of hidden symmetries in nature
Date:4/3/2011

tures are common in a wide variety of crystalline materials, where all the component structures are tightly interconnected by networks of shared atoms. The researchers say it is possible that components of materials with rotation-reversal symmetry could be engineered to function as on/off switches for a variety of novel applications.

The now-much-larger number of possible symmetry groups also is expected to be useful in identifying materials with unusual combinations of properties. "For example, the goal in developing a ferroelectric ferromagnet is to have a material in which the electrical dipoles and the magnetic moments coexist and are coupled in the same material -- that is, a material that allows electrical control of magnetism -- which would be very useful to have in computers," Gopalan said. The addition of rotation-reversal symmetry to the materials-science toolbox may help researchers to identify and search for structures in materials that could have strong ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties.

Gopalan and Litvin said a goal of their continuing research is to describe each of the more than 17,800 different combinations of the six symmetry types to give materials scientists a practical new tool for significantly increasing the efficiency and effectiveness in finding novel materials. The team also plans to conduct laboratory experiments that make use of their theoretical work on rotation-reversal symmetry. "We have done some predictions, we will test those predictions experimentally," Litvin said. "We are in the very early stages of implementing the results we have described in our new theory paper." Gopalan said, for example, that he has predicted new forms for optical properties in the commonplace quartz crystals that are used widely in watches and electronic equipment, and that his group now is testing these predictions experimentally.


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Contact: Barbara Kennedy
science@psu.edu
814-863-4682
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert  

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