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    • 2018-01-09 14:00:44
    • Article ID: 687623

    Breaking Bad Metals with Neutrons

    • Credit: Argonne National Laboratory

      A comparison of the theoretical calculations (top row) and inelastic neutron scattering data from ARCS at the Spallation Neutron Source (bottom row) shows the excellent agreement between the two. The three figures represent different slices through the four-dimensional scattering volumes produced by the electronic excitations.

    By exploiting the properties of neutrons to probe electrons in a metal, a team of researchers led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory has gained new insight into the behavior of correlated electron systems, which are materials that have useful properties such as magnetism or superconductivity.

    The research, to be published in Science, shows how well scientists can predict the properties and functionality of materials, allowing us to explore their potential to be used in novel ways.

    “How do you get to a stage where the models are reliable? This
    paper shows that we can now theoretically model even extremely
    complex systems. These techniques could accelerate our discovery of new materials.” — Ray Osborn, Argonne senior scientist

    “Our mission from the Department of Energy is to discover and then understand novel materials that could form the basis for completely new applications,” said lead author Ray Osborn, a senior scientist in Argonne’s Neutron and X-ray Scattering Group.

    Osborn and his colleagues studied a strongly correlated electron system (CePd3) using neutron scattering to overcome the limitations of other techniques and reveal how the compound’s electrical properties change at high and low temperatures. Osborn expects the results to inspire similar research.

    “Being able to predict with confidence the behavior of electrons as temperatures change should encourage a much more ambitious coupling of experimental results and models than has been previously attempted,” Osborn said.

    “In many metals, we consider the mobile electrons responsible for electrical conduction as moving independently of each other, only weakly affected by electron-electron repulsion,” he said. “However, there is an important class of materials in which electron-electron interactions are so strong they cannot be ignored.”

    Scientists have studied these strongly correlated electron systems for more than five decades, and one of the most important theoretical predictions is that at high temperatures the electron interactions cause random fluctuations that impede their mobility.

    “They become ‘bad’ metals,” Osborn said. However, at low temperatures, the electronic excitations start to resemble those of normal metals, but with much-reduced electron velocities.

    The existence of this crossover from incoherent random fluctuations at high temperature to coherent electronic states at low temperature had been postulated in 1985 by one of the co-authors, Jon Lawrence, a professor at the University of California, Irvine. Although there is some evidence for it in photoemission experiments, Argonne co-author Stephan Rosenkranz noted that it is very difficult to compare these measurements with realistic theoretical calculations because there are too many uncertainties in modeling the experimental intensities.

    The team, based mainly at Argonne and other DOE laboratories, showed that neutrons probe the electrons in a different way that overcomes the limitations of photoemission spectroscopy and other techniques.

    Making this work possible are advances in neutron spectroscopy at DOE’s Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a DOE Office of Science User Facility, and the United Kingdom’s ISIS Pulsed Neutron Source, which allow comprehensive measurements over a wide range of energies and momentum transfers. Both played critical roles in this study.

    “Neutrons are absolutely essential for this research,” Osborn said. “Neutron scattering is the only technique that is sensitive to the whole spectrum of electronic fluctuations in four dimensions of momentum and energy, and the only technique that can be reliably compared to realistic theoretical calculations on an absolute intensity scale.”

    With this study, these four-dimensional measurements have now been directly compared to calculations using new computational techniques specially developed for strongly correlated electron systems. The technique, known as Dynamical Mean Field Theory, defines a way of calculating electronic properties that include strong electron-electron interactions.

    Osborn acknowledged the contributions of Eugene Goremychkin, a former Argonne scientist who led the data analysis, and Argonne theorist Hyowon Park, who performed the calculations. The agreement between theory and experiments was “truly remarkable,” Osborn said.

    Looking ahead, researchers are optimistic about closing the gap between the results of condensed matter physics experiments and theoretical models.

    “How do you get to a stage where the models are reliable?” Osborn said. “This paper shows that we can now theoretically model even extremely complex systems. These techniques could accelerate our discovery of new materials.”

    Other Argonne authors of the paper, titled “Coherent Band Excitations in CePd3: A Comparison of Neutron Scattering and ab initio Theory,” are Park and John-Paul Castellan of the Materials Science Division. Also contributing to this work were researchers at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Russia; the University of Illinois at Chicago; Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany; Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of California at Irvine.

    Research at Argonne and Los Alamos was funded by DOE’s Materials Sciences and Engineering Division of the Office of Basic Energy Sciences. Research at Oak Ridge’s SNS was supported by the Scientific User Facilities Division of the Office of Basic Energy Sciences. Neutron experiments were performed at the SNS and the ISIS Pulsed Neutron Source, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK. Blues, a high-performance computing cluster operated by the Laboratory Computing Resource Center at Argonne, also contributed to this research.

    Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

    The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit the Office of Science website.

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    Scientists discover key types of microbes that degrade organic matter and release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

    An effect that Einstein helped discover 100 years ago offers new insight into a puzzling magnetic phenomenon

    Experiments at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have seen for the first time what happens when magnetic materials are demagnetized at ultrafast speeds of millionths of a billionth of a second: The atoms on the surface of the material move, much like the iron bar did. The work, done at SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser, was published in Nature earlier this month.

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    Feature summarizes and links to discoveries and breakthroughs at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in 2018, plus a profile of the knight who leads the laboratory.


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    Top 10 Discoveries of 2018

    Every year, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory compiles a list of the biggest advances made by the Lab's staff scientists, engineers, and visiting researchers. From uncovering mysteries of the universe to building better batteries, here, in no particular order, are our picks for the top 10 discoveries of 2018.

    U.S. Department of Energy Announces $33 Million for Small Business Research and Development Grants

    The U.S. Department of Energy announced it will award 189 grants totaling $33 million to 149 small businesses in 32 states.

    DOE to Provide $16 Million for New Research into Atmospheric and Terrestrial Processes

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a plan to provide $16 million for new observational research aimed at improving the accuracy of today's climate and earth system models.

    Machine learning award powers Argonne leadership in engine design

    When attempting to design engines to be more fuel-efficient and emissions-free, automotive manufacturers have to take into account all the complexity inherent in the combustion process.

    ORNL partners with industry to address multiple nuclear technology challenges

    The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory is collaborating with industry on six new projects focused on advancing commercial nuclear energy technologies that offer potential improvements to current nuclear reactors and move new reactor designs closer to deployment.

    Lithium earns honors for three physicists working to bring the energy that powers the sun to Earth

    Feature describes research of three PPPL physicists who have won the laboratory's 2018 outstanding research awards

    DOE approves technical plan and cost estimate to upgrade Argonne facility; Project will create X-rays that illuminate the atomic scale, in 3D

    The U.S. Department of Energy has approved the technical scope, cost estimate and plan of work for an upgrade of the Advanced Photon Source, a major storage-ring X-ray source at Argonne.

    Costas Soukoulis elected to National Academy of Inventors

    Costas Soukoulis, Ames Laboratory senior scientist and Iowa State University Frances M. Craig Endowed Chair and Distinguished Professor, has been named as a 2018 National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Fellow.

    Biophysicist F. William Studier Elected Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

    F. William Studier, a Senior Biophysicist Emeritus at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry at Stony Brook University, has been elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). He is among 148 renowned academic inventors being recognized by NAI for 2018.

    Blast to the future

    A grant from DOE's Technology Commercialization Fund will help researchers at Argonne and industry partners seek improvements to U.S. manufacturing by making discovery and design of new materials more efficient.


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    Microbial Types May Prove Key to Gas Releases from Thawing Permafrost

    Scientists discover key types of microbes that degrade organic matter and release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

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    Deep Learning for Electron Microscopy

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    Clarifying Rates of Methylmercury Production

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    How to Best Predict Chemical Reactions of Contaminants in Water

    Scientists determine the accuracy of computational methods used to study the sulfate radical approach to purifying water.

    Small Particles Play Large Role in Tropical Thunderstorms

    Ultrafine aerosol particles produce bigger storm clouds and more precipitation than larger aerosols in pristine conditions.


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