Researchers Create 2-D material That Could Send Electronics R&D Spinning in New Directions

Monday, July 3, 2017 - 16:56

Researchers from Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and UC Berkeley have created a promising candidate for a budding branch of electronics known as 'spintronics.'

The material -- known as 1T'-WTe2, called 2-D materials because it includes monolayer materials such as graphene that behave in different ways than their thicker forms; and topological materials, in which electrons can zip around in predictable ways with next to no resistance and regardless of defects that would ordinarily impede their movement, Science Daily reports.

The material is called a topological insulator because its interior surface does not conduct electricity, and its electrical conductivity (the flow of electrons) is restricted to its edges. "This material should be very useful for spintronics studies," said Sung-Kwan Mo, a physicist and staff scientist at Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source (ALS) who co-led the study, published in Nature Physics.

"The flow of electrons is completely linked with the direction of their spins, and is limited only to the edges of the material," Mo said. "The electrons will travel in one direction, and with one type of spin, which is a useful quality for spintronics devices." Such devices could conceivably carry data more fluidly, with lesser power demands and heat buildup than is typical for present-day electronic devices.”

"After we refined the growth recipe, we measured it with ARPES. We immediately recognized the characteristic electronic structure of a 2-D topological insulator," Tang said, based on theory and predictions. "We were the first ones to perform this type of measurement on this material."

Going forward, researchers aim to develop larger samples of the material and to discover how to selectively tune and accentuate specific properties. Besides its topological properties, its "sister materials," which have similar properties and were also studied by the research team, are known to be light-sensitive and have useful properties for solar cells and for optoelectronics, which control light for use in electronic devices.

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