A valley so low: Electrons congregate in ways that could be useful to 'valleytronics'

phys.org | 8/18/2018 | Staff
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A Princeton-led study has revealed an emergent electronic behavior on the surface of bismuth crystals that could lead to insights on the growing area of technology known as "valleytronics."

The term refers to energy valleys that form in crystals and that can trap single electrons. These valleys potentially could be used to store information, greatly enhancing what is capable with modern electronic devices.

Study - Researchers - Electrons - Bismuth - Valley

In the new study, researchers observed that electrons in bismuth prefer to crowd into one valley rather than distributing equally into the six available valleys. This behavior creates a type of electricity called ferroelectricity, which involves the separation of positive and negative charges onto opposite sides of a material. This study was made available online in May 2018 and published this month in Nature Physics.

The finding confirms a recent prediction that ferroelectricity arises naturally on the surface of bismuth when electrons collect in a single valley. These valleys are not literal pits in the crystal but rather are like pockets of low energy where electrons prefer to rest.

Researchers - Electrons - Valley - Technique - Microscopy

The researchers detected the electrons congregating in the valley using a technique called scanning tunneling microscopy, which involves moving an extremely fine needle back and forth across the surface of the crystal. They did this at temperatures hovering close to absolute zero and under a very strong magnetic field, up to 300,000 times greater than Earth's magnetic field.

The behavior of these electrons is one that could be exploited in future technologies. Crystals consist of highly...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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