By Nick Gilbert
Physicists from the University of Arkansas have analyzed the innovative class of materials known as complex oxides at their lower quantum limits to discover that these materials become multifunctional by acquiring both electric and magnetic properties.
This is unusual in comparison to semiconductors which when pushed to those limits, only acquire electronic properties, that is, they begin to conduct electricity.
Jak Chakhalian, Benjamin Gray, Derek Meyers and Jian Liu from the University of Arkansas carried out the study in conjunction with Phillip Ryan and John W. Freeland from the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory.
Current generation computers employ microelectronics technology in which numerous semiconductor devices are integrated on to extremely tiny spaces called as quantum wells. A quantum well typically consists of two nanoscale layers of non-conducting material sandwiching nanoscale layers of a semiconductor.
The researchers found that replacing semiconductors with complex oxides in the quantum well introduces a new functionality. Conventional silicon-based semiconductor materials differ from complex oxides in the aspect of correlation between electrons. Electrons in silicon-based materials employed in computers, cell phones, televisions, medical equipment, etc are indifferent to the movements of one another. Complex oxides on the other hand, have correlating electrons wherein the movement measurement of one electron entails tracking billions of electron interactions.
The physicists sandwiched four atomic layers of complex oxide derived from nickel between two layers of non-conducting aluminum oxide. The structure demonstrated both magnetic and electronic properties. Multiple properties in a single material could pave the way for smaller devices with multiple functions.