Engineering atomic interfaces for new electronics

It looks like we are in a very interesting time for material manipulation. We have posted a number of stories like this one recently, which shows that with the adjustment of materials at the atomic level all sorts of new discoveries are being made – Deskarati

Most people cross borders such as doorways or state lines without thinking much about it. Yet not all borders are places of limbo intended only for crossing. Some borders, like those between two materials that are brought together, are dynamic places where special things can happen.

For an electron moving from one material toward the other, this space is where it can join other electrons, which together can create current, magnetism or even light.

A multi-institutional team has made fundamental discoveries at the border regions, called interfaces, between oxide materials. Led by University of Wisconsin-Madison materials science and engineering professor Chang-Beom Eom, the team has discovered how to manipulate electrons in oxide interfaces by inserting a single layer of atoms. The researchers also have discovered unusual electron behaviors at these engineered interfaces.

The researchers used two pieces of precisely grown strontium titanate, which is a type of oxide, or compound with oxygen as a fundamental element. Between the pieces, the researchers inserted a one-atom-thick layer of one of five rare-earth elements, which are important components in the electronics industry.

The team found that the rare-earth element layer creates an electron gas that has some interesting characteristics. The gas actually behaves more like an electron “liquid,” since the electrons move more in tandem, or in correlation, than a gas normally does.

“If you take two materials, each has different characteristics, and if you put them together, at their interface you may find

via Engineering atomic interfaces for new electronics.

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