Scientists discover exotic quantum state of matter

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A team of scientists from Princeton University has found that one of the most intriguing phenomena in condensed-matter physics -- known as the quantum Hall effect -- can occur in nature in a way that no one has ever before seen.

Writing in the April 24 issue of Nature, the scientists report that they have recorded this exotic behavior of electrons in a bulk crystal of bismuth-antimony without any external magnetic field being present

The quantum Hall effect has only been seen previously in atomically thin layers of semiconductors in the presence of a very high applied magnetic field. In exploring new realms and subjecting materials to extreme conditions, the scientists are seeking to enrich the basis for understanding how electrons move.

http://physorg.com/news128261028.html
 

DrClaude

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A topological Dirac insulator in a quantum spin Hall phase
D. Hsieh, D. Qian, L. Wray, Y. Xia, Y. S. Hor, R. J. Cava & M. Z. Hasan
Nature volume 452, pages 970–974 (24 April 2008)
Abstract said:
When electrons are subject to a large external magnetic field, the conventional charge quantum Hall effect dictates that an electronic excitation gap is generated in the sample bulk, but metallic conduction is permitted at the boundary. Recent theoretical models suggest that certain bulk insulators with large spin–orbit interactions may also naturally support conducting topological boundary states in the quantum limit, which opens up the possibility for studying unusual quantum Hall-like phenomena in zero external magnetic fields. Bulk Bi1-xSbx single crystals are predicted to be prime candidates for one such unusual Hall phase of matter known as the topological insulator. The hallmark of a topological insulator is the existence of metallic surface states that are higher-dimensional analogues of the edge states that characterize a quantum spin Hall insulator. In addition to its interesting boundary states, the bulk of Bi1-xSbx is predicted to exhibit three-dimensional Dirac particles, another topic of heightened current interest following the new findings in two-dimensional graphene and charge quantum Hall fractionalization observed in pure bismuth. However, despite numerous transport and magnetic measurements on the Bi1-xSbx family since the 1960s, no direct evidence of either topological Hall states or bulk Dirac particles has been found. Here, using incident-photon-energy-modulated angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (IPEM-ARPES), we report the direct observation of massive Dirac particles in the bulk of Bi0.9Sb0.1, locate the Kramers points at the sample’s boundary and provide a comprehensive mapping of the Dirac insulator’s gapless surface electron bands. These findings taken together suggest that the observed surface state on the boundary of the bulk insulator is a realization of the ‘topological metal’. They also suggest that this material has potential application in developing next-generation quantum computing devices that may incorporate ‘light-like’ bulk carriers and spin-textured surface currents.
 

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