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The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2018-01-09 17:05:09
  • Article ID: 687682

A Rare Quantum State Realized in a New Material

A revolutionary material harbors magnetism and massless electrons that travel near the speed of light--for future ultrasensitive, high-efficiency electronics and sensors.

  • Credit: Image courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    The artwork depicts the magnetic and electronic states of the newly discovered magnetic topological semimetal (Sr1-yMn1-zSb2); its unusual and robust electronic behavior enables the flow of electrical current with little resistance. The violet spheres are strontium (Sr), blue is antimony (Sb), and purple is manganese (Mn). Arrows represent the alignment of magnetic moments. The two gold cones touching at a point (called Dirac point) represent the energy and momentum states of conducting electrons.

The Science

An exotic quantum state called a Dirac semimetal was realized in a novel magnetic material Sr1-yMn1-zSb2. This material features an unusual combination of two distinct electronic behaviors. One behavior is the persistence of a state similar to a bar magnet with spins that are parallel to each other. The other relates to electrons with an effective mass near zero that travel close to the speed of light.

The Impact

The Dirac semimetal belongs to a class of materials called topological semimetals. These materials offer great promise. They could be the basis for ultra-powerful computers. Essentially, the semimetal could create a new paradigm for highly efficient and robust computational platforms. Semimetals could let such computers and other quantum devices work in warmer settings, climbing further from absolute zero.

Summary

A 3-D analog of graphene (a 2-D material) is a Dirac semimetal. Dirac semimetals have exceedingly high charge carrier mobility, creating little to no resistance to current flow, and large magnetoresistance that could be used for high-density, low-power data storage. A team led by Tulane University, Louisiana Consortium for Neutron Scattering at Louisiana State University, and others discovered a new magnetic semimetal Sr1-yMn1-zSb2 (yz<0.1) with nearly massless quantum particles (electrons in this case) that follow the rules of relativistic quantum mechanics. Neutron scattering experiments revealed an unusual combination of ferromagnetic and antiferromagnetic states in the material that vary as a function of temperature. In general, materials exhibit either ferromagnetism or antiferromagnetism, not both in the same material at a given condition. The observed persistence of a ferromagnetic component in the antiferromagnetic state at low temperatures is the signature for the breaking of the time-reversal symmetry (that is, running backward does not return to its starting conditions). The combination of unusual electronic behaviors in this new material offers a rare opportunity to investigate the interplay between relativistic quantum states and spontaneous breaking of symmetry associated with time. These materials offer great promise for highly efficient quantum devices and quantum computers.

Funding

This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences (neutron scattering), including use of the High Flux Isotope Reactor, a DOE Office of Science user facility; DOE National Nuclear Security Administration; National Science Foundation (Tulane University, University of New Orleans, Florida State University, National High Magnetic Field Laboratory); and Louisiana Board of Regents (equipment).

Publication

J.Y. Liu, J. Hu,  Q. Zhang, D. Graf, H.B. Cao, S.M.A. Radmanesh, D.J. Adams, Y.L. Zhu, G.F. Cheng, X. Liu, W.A. Phelan, J. Wei, M. Jaime, F. Balakirev, D.A. Tennant, J.F. DiTusa, I. Chiorescu, L. Spinu, and Z.Q. Mao, “A magnetic topological semimetal Sr1−yMn1−zSb2 (yz < 0.1).” Nature Materials 16, 905 (2017). [DOI: 10.1038/nmat4953]

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Diamond 'Spin-Off' Tech Could Lead to Low-Cost Medical Imaging and Drug Discovery Tools

An international team led by scientists at Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley discovered how to exploit defects in nanoscale and microscale diamonds and potentially enhance the sensitivity of magnetic resonance imaging and nuclear magnetic resonance systems while eliminating the need for their costly and bulky superconducting magnets.

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Supersonic Waves May Help Electronics Beat the Heat

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A piezoelectric ceramic foam supported by a flexible polymer support provides a 10-fold increase in the ability to harvest mechanical and thermal energy over standard piezo composites, according to Penn State researchers.

PNNL Successfully Vitrifies Three Gallons of Radioactive Tank Waste

News Release RICHLAND, Wash. -- In a first-of-its-kind demonstration, researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have vitrified low-activity waste from underground storage tanks at Hanford, immobilizing the radioactive and chemical materials within a durable glass waste form.Approximately three gallons of low-activity Hanford tank waste were vitrified at PNNL's Radiochemical Processing Laboratory in April.

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Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), including researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI), have developed a workflow that enables large-scale, genome-wide assays of gene importance across many conditions. The study, "Mutant Phenotypes for Thousands of Bacterial Genes of Unknown Function," has been published in the journal Nature and is by far the largest functional genomics study of bacteria ever published.

Quarks Feel the Pressure in the Proton

Inside every proton in every atom in the universe is a pressure cooker environment that surpasses the atom-crushing heart of a neutron star. That's according to the first measurement of a mechanical property of subatomic particles, the pressure distribution inside the proton, which was carried out by scientists at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility.


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Power to the People

The University of Utah College of Engineering has received a $2 million grant to create a laboratory and develop new technology for communities with backup power sources, known as microgrids, so they can quickly and more securely operate in the event of a massive power outage due to a natural disaster or cyberattack.

The U. S. Department of Energy Announces $34 Million for Small Business Research and Development Grants

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced that the Department of Energy will award 219 grants totaling $34 million to 183 small businesses in 41 states. Funded through DOE's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, today's selections are for Phase I research and development.

Raising the Heat to Lower the Cost of Solar Energy

Sandia National Laboratories will receive $10.5 million from the Department of Energy to research and design a cheaper and more efficient solar energy system.The work focuses on refining a specific type of utility-scale solar energy technology that uses mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a receiver on a tower.

Solar Turbines, Inc. Selects Penn State to Establish Center of Excellence in Gas Turbines

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ORNL Facility Receives American Nuclear Society's Historic Landmark Designation

The American Nuclear Society has designated the Radiochemical Engineering Development Center at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory an ANS Nuclear Historic Landmark, recognizing more than 50 years of isotope production and nuclear fuel cycle research.

Steven Cowley named director of DOE's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

Steven Cowley, a theoretical physicist and international authority on fusion energy, has been named director of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), effective July 1.

Scientists Turn X-ray Laser Into World's Fastest Water Heater

Scientists have used a powerful X-ray laser at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to heat water from room temperature to 100,000 degrees Celsius in less than a tenth of a picosecond, or millionth of a millionth of a second.

PNNL Part of a New National Center for Near-Atomic Resolution of Biological Molecules

A collaboration between the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Oregon Health & Science University has been chosen as a national center for a Nobel Prize-winning method of imaging, cryo-electron microscopy, that is revolutionizing structural biology.

SLAC Will Open One of Three NIH National Service Centers for Cryo-Electron Microscopy

The National Institutes of Health announced today that it will establish a national service and training center for cryogenic electron microscopy research at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Planck Collaboration Wins 2018 Gruber Cosmology Prize

The Planck Team--including researchers in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's (Berkeley Lab's) Computational Research and Physics divisions--have been awarded the 2018 Gruber Cosmology Prize.


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The Secret to Measuring an Antineutrino's Energy

Scientists are developing better models that describe both neutrino and antineutrino data, which can offer insights into the nature of the universe.

How to Cope with Cases of Mistaken Identity: MINERvA's Tale of Pions and Neutrinos

Neutral pion production is a major character in a story of mistaken identity worthy of an Agatha Christie novel.

Perfecting the Noise-Canceling Neutrino Detector

MicroBooNE neutrino experiment cuts through the noise, clearing the way for signals made by the hard-to-detect particle.

Keeping Tabs on Polysulfides in Batteries

Optimizing lithium-sulfur battery electrolytes for long life.

Huge "Thermometer" Takes Temperatures of Tiny Samples

New spectroscopic technique measures heat in itty-bitty volumes that could reveal insights for electronics and energy technology.

Water, Water, Everywhere, but How Does It Flow?

Scientists use new X-ray technique to see how water moves at the molecular level.

Magnetized Plasmas That "Twist Light" Can Produce Powerful Microscopes and More

A non-twisting laser beam moving through magnetized plasma turns into an optical vortex that traps, rotates, and controls microscopic particles, opening new frontiers in imaging.

Whistling While You Work: Fusion Scientists Find Inspiration in Atmospheric Whistles

Just like lightning, fusion plasmas contain odd electromagnetic whistler waves that could control destructive electrons in fusion reactors.

Zero Tolerance in Tokamaks: Eliminating Small Instabilities Before They Become Disruptions

Energetic ions and beam heating cause or calm instabilities, depending on the tokamak's magnetic field.

MURR Becomes First Reactor Facility to Join DOE's Isotope Program

DOE and MURR partner to ensure scientists have access to essential research isotopes.


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