Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Research Demystifies Quantum Properties Of Exotic Materials

Date:
December 23, 2004
Source:
Rice University
Summary:
Modern materials science has been a boon for electronics, providing average consumers with palm-sized computers that would have filled a room just a few years ago for instance. But the push to create materials with radically new electronic properties has also produced a host of experimental results that textbook theories simply cannot explain.

Modern materials science has been a boon for electronics, providing average consumers with palm-sized computers that would have filled a room just a few years ago for instance. But the push to create materials with radically new electronic properties has also produced a host of experimental results that textbook theories simply cannot explain.

In the Dec. 16 issue of Nature magazine, a team of physicists from Rice University, Rutgers University and the Max-Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids in Dresden, Germany, offers a new explanation of the way quantum effects could create some of the strange electronic properties that have been observed in the important class of “heavy fermion” materials.

“Our findings represent a clear-cut advance in the understanding of the electron's organizing principle in quantum-critical matters,” said theoretical physist Qimiao Si, a paper co-author and professor of physics and astronomy at Rice. “The work could be important to the physics of a broad range of materials, including high-temperature superconductors and carbon nanotubes. In addition, it provides new insight for the field of phase transformations of matter, which is of interest in physics, chemistry and other disciplines.”

The new research bolsters the growing body of theoretical and experimental work in a new subfield of condensed matter physics known as “correlated electron physics,” a discipline that's grown up in the past decade with the aim of understanding all the electronic processes governing both natural and man-made materials.

The impetus for correlated electron physics is the fact that the standard theory of metals cannot explain the electronic workings of materials that contain “correlated,” or strongly interacting electrons. Correlated systems include radioactive metals, such as plutonium, and compounds based on so-called rare earth elements and transition metals, such as cerium, ytterbium and copper. All strongly correlated materials contain electrons whose influence on one another is so pronounced that they cannot be explained by theoretical description of the independent electrons themselves but instead require an understanding of their dynamic interaction.

Electrons are a type of quantum particle called a “fermion.” Like all quantum particles, electrons can be considered both a particle and a wave, and quantum mechanics dictates that electron waves possess a definite momentum and that no two electrons can have the same momentum. What follows is the notion of “Fermi volume,” a volume in the momentum-space made up of all the combined momenta of all the electrons in a wire, a resistor or another solid-state structure.

In this week's findings, Si, Rutgers theoretical physicist Piers Coleman, and the Dresden group of experimental physicists led by Frank Steglich, show that the Fermi volume in materials with strongly correlated electrons changes its size abruptly at a “quantum critical point.” A quantum critical point develops in a material at absolute zero (minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit).

“Quantum critical points are of great current interest because of their ability to reach up from absolute zero and create a new state of matter called ‘quantum critical matter,'” said Coleman, professor of physics and astronomy at Rutgers and a member of the university's Center for Materials Theory. “This may provide a route to many new classes of material.”

The latest research offers the most significant body of experimental evidence aimed at answering the theoretical questions about changes in Fermi volume in quantum critical matters. Si, Coleman and Steglich, director at the Max-Planck Institute in Dresden, teamed with Max-Planck experimentalists Silke Paschen, an associate professor of physics, Thomas Lόhmann and Steffen Wirth, to measure something called “the Hall effect.” The experiment included an ingenious setup designed to separate the various roles played by magnetic fields. Other members of the Max-Planck group are Octavio Trovarelli and Christoph Geibel, who synthesized extremely high-quality samples, as well as Philipp Gegenwart, who performed resistivity measurements necessary to analyze the Hall-effect data.

The theoretical study of quantum criticality is still in flux. Critical points governed by classical physics have been known for fifty years, and the conventional wisdom thinks of their quantum mechanical cousins as a kind of classical phase transition in higher dimensions. This traditional way of thinking has held sway in metal physics for the past half century, but it would predict a smooth evolution of the Fermi volume.

“Our experimental observation points toward a complete breakdown of the traditional theory,” said Paschen.

Instead, the results are more consistent with a local quantum critical point, a new class of quantum phase transition advanced by Si and colleagues in Nature in 2001. Another possible explanation favored by Coleman and colleagues is that electrons are actually breaking apart inside the quantum critical matter – a phenomenon known as spin-charge separation.

“This is the most direct evidence for a collapse of a Fermi volume in any quantum critical matter,” says Steglich. “We expect this new insight to have broad implications for other strongly correlated electron systems.”

Taken together, the experimental and theoretical works point toward fluctuations of the Fermi surface (the enclosure of the Fermi volume) as being responsible for the exotic physical properties of quantum critical matter.

The real-world effect of electron correlations on material properties can be profound. The effects are widely believed to be a key element behind the mechanism of high-temperature superconductivity, and a better understanding of electron correlations may answer questions arising from a host of other mysterious experimental observations such as: Why do the mobile electrons in some extremely cold exotic metals behave as if their masses were a thousand times that of free electrons in simple metals? Why do some strongly correlated materials display a very large thermoelectric response? Why do others display “colossal magnetoresistance,” or extreme sensitivity to magnetic changes?

The Rice research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Robert A. Welch Foundation and the Texas Center for Superconductivity and Advanced Materials at the University of Houston. The Rutgers' research was supported by the National Science Foundation. The Max-Planck Institute research was supported by the Fonds der Chemischen Industrie.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rice University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Rice University. "Research Demystifies Quantum Properties Of Exotic Materials." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 December 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041219194949.htm>.
Rice University. (2004, December 23). Research Demystifies Quantum Properties Of Exotic Materials. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041219194949.htm
Rice University. "Research Demystifies Quantum Properties Of Exotic Materials." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041219194949.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

AP (July 23, 2014) — 'Ray' the robotic parking valet at Dusseldorf Airport in Germany lets travelers to avoid the hassle of finding a parking spot before heading to the check-in desk. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 23, 2014) — Commercial aircraft deliveries rose seven percent at Boeing, prompting the aerospace company to boost full-year profit guidance- though quarterly revenues missed analyst estimates. Bobbi Rebell reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Europe's Car Market on the Rebound?

Europe's Car Market on the Rebound?

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 23, 2014) — Daimler kicks off a round of second-quarter earnings results from Europe's top carmakers with a healthy set of numbers - prompting hopes that stronger sales in Europe will counter weakness in emerging markets. Hayley Platt reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
9/11 Commission Members Warn of Terror "fatigue" Among American Public

9/11 Commission Members Warn of Terror "fatigue" Among American Public

Reuters - US Online Video (July 22, 2014) — Ten years after releasing its initial report, members of the 9/11 Commission warn of the "waning sense of urgency" in combating terrorists attacks. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins