Electrons hurtle into the interior of a new class of quantum materials

Captured From: http://www.spacedaily.com

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Scientists at Princeton University have shown that negatively charged particles known as electrons can flow extremely rapidly due to quantum behaviors in a type of material known as a topological Dirac semi-metal. Previous work by the same group indicated that these electrons can flow on the surface of certain materials, but the new research indicates that they can also flow through the bulk of the material, in this case cadmium arsenide. Using a technique called angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (left), the researchers measured the energy and momentum of electrons as they were ejected from the cadmium arsenide. The resulting data revealed each electron as two cones oriented opposite each other that converge at a point, a telltale sign of the quantum behavior that allows electrons to act like light, which has no mass. A 3-D reconstruction (right) shows that the cone-shaped electrons are able to move in all directions in the material. The top-right panel reveals that these electrons are linked, allowing them to move even when deformed by bending or stretching, an attribute that gives them their topological nature. Image courtesy M. Zahid Hasan and Suyang Xu.

As smartphones get smarter and computers compute faster, researchers actively search for ways to speed up the processing of information. Now, scientists at Princeton University have made a step forward in developing a new class of materials that could be used in future technologies.

They have discovered a new quantum effect that enables electrons – the negative-charge-carrying particles that make today’s electronic devices possible – to dash through the interior of these materials with very little resistance.

The discovery is the latest chapter in the story of a curious material known as a “topological insulator,” in which electrons whiz along the surface without penetrating the interior. The newest research indicates that these electrons also can flow through the interior of some of these materials.

“With this discovery, instead of facing the challenge of how to use only the electrons on the surface of a material, now you can just cut the material open and you have light-like electrons flowing in three dimensions inside the materials,” said M. Zahid Hasan, a professor of physics at Princeton, who led the discovery.

The finding was conducted by a team of scientists from the United States, Taiwan, Singapore, Germany and Sweden and published in two papers in the journal Nature Communications. The first paper, published May 7, demonstrates that fast electrons can flow in the interior of crystals made from cadmium and arsenic, or cadmium arsenide. The second paper, published May 12, explores fast electrons in a material made from the elements bismuth and selenium. Read Full Article

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