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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.
  • 2017-10-02 00:00:51
  • Article ID: 682013

A Sea of Spinning Electrons

Rutgers-led discovery could spawn a wave of new electronic devices

  • Credit: Hsiang-Hsi (Sean) Kung/Rutgers University-New Brunswick

    The blue and red cones show the energy and momentum of surface electrons in a 3D topological insulator. The spin structure is shown in the blue and red arrows at the top and bottom, respectively. Light promotes electrons from the blue cone into the red cone, with the spin direction flipping. The orderly spinning leads to the chiral spin mode observed in this study.

Picture two schools of fish swimming in clockwise and counterclockwise circles. It’s enough to make your head spin, and now scientists at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and the University of Florida have discovered the “chiral spin mode” – a sea of electrons spinning in opposing circles.

“We discovered a new collective spin mode that can be used to transport energy or information with very little energy dissipation, and it can be a platform for building novel electronic devices such as computers and processors,” said Girsh Blumberg, senior author of the study and a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in Rutgers’ School of Arts and Sciences.

Collective chiral spin modes are propagating waves of electron spins that do not carry a charge current but modify the “spinning” directions of electrons. “Chiral” refers to entities, like your right and left hands, that are matching but asymmetrical and can’t be superimposed on their mirror image.

The study, led by Hsiang-Hsi (Sean) Kung, a graduate student in Blumberg’s Rutgers Laser Spectroscopy Lab, was published in Physical Review Letters. Kung used a custom-made, ultra-sensitive spectrometer to study a prototypical 3D topological insulator. A microscopic theoretical model that predicts the energy and temperature evolution of the chiral spin mode was developed by Saurabh Maiti and Professor Dmitrii Maslov at the University of Florida, strongly substantiating the experimental observation.

In a vacuum, electrons are simple, boring elementary particles. But in solids, the collective behavior of many electrons interacting with each other and the underlying platform may result in phenomena that lead to new applications in superconductivity, magnetism and piezoelectricity (voltage generated via materials placed under pressure), to name a few. 
Condensed matter science, which focuses on solids, liquids and other concentrated forms of matter, seeks to reveal new phenomena in new materials.

Silicon-based electronics, such as computer chips and computers, are one of the most important inventions in human history. But silicon leads to significant energy loss when scaled down. One alternative is to harness the spins of electrons to transport information through extremely thin wires, which in theory would slash energy loss.

The newly discovered “chiral spin mode” stems from the sea of electrons on the surface of “3D topological insulators.” These special insulators have nonmagnetic, insulating material with robust metallic surfaces, and the electrons are confined so they move only on 2D surfaces.

Most importantly, the electrons’ spinning axes are level and perpendicular to their velocity. 
Chiral spin modes emerge naturally from the surface of such insulating materials, but they were never observed before due to crystalline defects. The experimental observation in the current study was made possible following the development of ultra-clean crystals by Rutgers doctoral student Xueyun Wang and Board of Governors Professor Sang-Wook Cheong in the Rutgers Center for Emergent Materials.

The discovery paves new paths for building next generation low-loss electronic devices. The research at Rutgers was funded by the National Science Foundation.

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Opening Windows for New Spintronic Studies

A surprising discovery could potentially offer major advantages in speed, heat dissipation and power consumption in electronic devices.

Sunlight Stimulates Microbial Respiration of Carbon in Surface Waters

This research offers new information to understand the role of microorganisms in elemental cycling in the Arctic.

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Using advanced computational methods, University of Wisconsin-Madison materials scientists have discovered new materials that could bring widespread commercial use of solid oxide fuel cells closer to reality.

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A team of researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab) and Ohio State University have generated 3-D images from 129 individual molecules of flexible DNA origami particles. Their work provides the first experimental verification of the theoretical model of DNA origami. https://newscenter.lbl.gov/2018/02/22/imaging-individual-flexible-dna-building-blocks-3-d

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Berkeley Lab "Minimalist Machine Learning" Algorithms Analyze Images From Very Little Data

Berkeley Lab mathematicians have developed a new approach to machine learning aimed at experimental imaging data. Rather than relying on the tens or hundreds of thousands of images used by typical machine learning methods, this new approach "learns" much more quickly and requires far fewer images.

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Squeezing Into the Best Shape

Gel uses nanoparticles for on-demand control of droplet shapes, of interest for energy storage and catalysis.


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ORNL Wins Four FLC Technology Transfer Awards

Four technologies developed at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have earned 2018 Excellence in Technology Transfer Awards from the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC).

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, OHSU Create Joint Research Co-Laboratory to Advance Precision Medicine

News Release PORTLAND, Ore. -- Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and OHSU today announced a joint collaboration to improve patient care by focusing research on highly complex sets of biomedical data, and the tools to interpret them.The OHSU-PNNL Precision Medicine Innovation Co-Laboratory, called PMedIC, will provide a comprehensive ecosystem for scientists to utilize integrated 'omics, data science and imaging technologies in their research in order to advance precision medicine -- an approach to disease treatment that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment and lifestyle for each person.

The Mysteries of Plasma and Solar Eruptions Earn PPPL Graduate an Astrophysics Prize

Article describes dissertation award for graduate of Princeton University Department of Astrophysical Sciences.

45-Year-Old Telescope Gets a Makeover to Demystify Dark Energy

Forty-five years ago this month, a telescope tucked inside a 14-story, 500-ton dome atop a mile-high peak in Arizona took in the night sky for the first time and recorded its observations on glass photographic plates. Today, the dome closes on the previous science chapters of the 4-meter Nicholas U. Mayall Telescope and starts preparing for its new role in creating the largest 3-D map of the universe. This map could help determine why the universe is expanding at faster and faster rates, driven by an unknown force called dark energy.

MSU Uses $3 Million NASA Grant to Find Better Ways to Regulate Dams

Michigan State University researchers, equipped with $3 million from NASA, will investigate innovative methods to improve dams so that they are less harmful to people and the environment.

Harker School Wins Second Consecutive SLAC Regional DOE Science Bowl

Twenty-four teams from 16 Bay Area high schools faced off Feb. 3 in the SLAC Regional DOE Science Bowl, a series of fast-paced question-and-answer matches that test knowledge in biology, chemistry, physics, earth and space sciences, energy and math. The competition is hosted annually by the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

David Asner Named Deputy Associate Laboratory Director and Head of the Instrumentation Division in Brookhaven Lab's Nuclear and Particle Physics Directorate

A particle physicist with extensive leadership and management experience, Asner will help expand a portfolio of physics programs and oversee instrumentation research and development.

UIC to Provide Energy-Saving 'Kits' with $3.1m in Funding From ComEd

The University of Illinois at Chicago's Energy Resources Center has received funding from ComEd to provide energy-efficient LED light bulbs, advanced power strips, and educational material to income-qualified participants in northern Illinois.As part of a $3.1 million year-long investment, the utility company will fund the Low Income Kit Energy (LIKE) program, allowing engineers at UIC's Energy Resources Center to provide energy-saving kits to 35,000 eligible individuals and/or families.

DOE's HPC4Manufacturing Program Seeks Industry Proposals

The Department of Energy (DOE) on Feb. 1 announced up to $3 million will be made available to U.S. manufacturers for public/private projects aimed at applying high performance computing to industry challenges for the advancement of energy innovation.

Elke-Caroline Aschenauer Awarded Prestigious Humboldt Research Award

UPTON, NY -- Elke-Caroline Aschenauer, a senior physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, has been awarded a Humboldt Research Award for her contributions to the field of experimental nuclear physics. This prestigious international award--issued by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn, Germany--comes with a prize of EUR60,000 (more than $70,000 U.


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Sunlight Stimulates Microbial Respiration of Carbon in Surface Waters

This research offers new information to understand the role of microorganisms in elemental cycling in the Arctic.

Defects and Surface Reactions Boost Batteries

Defect-enhanced transport and complex phase growth are changing design rules for lithium-ion batteries.

Remembering Really Fast

Colossal magnetoresistance at terahertz frequencies in thin composites boosts novel memory devices operated at extremely high speed.

Tuning Quantum Light Sources

First known material capable of emitting single photons at room temperature and telecom wavelengths.

Working Night and Day

Day-night changes in light and temperature power a low-cost material assembly that mimics biological self-copying.

A Nanowire Array to Screen Drugs for Neurodegenerative Diseases

Engineers develop wires that penetrate neurons and measure their activity

Squeezing Into the Best Shape

Gel uses nanoparticles for on-demand control of droplet shapes, of interest for energy storage and catalysis.

Forcing the Hand of Elusive Electrons

Current generated when light hits a material reveals electrons behaving like an elusive particle.

Single Atoms in Nano-Cages

Tiny cages can trap and release inert argon gas atoms, allowing their further study and providing a new way to capture rare gases.

Unwavering Juggler with Three Extra Electrons

Simulations discovered the first molecule with three extra electrons and extraordinary stability.


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