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New Method to Detect Spin Current in Quantum Materials ­nlocks Potential For Alternative Electronics

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The new microscopy method is sensitive to the spin of moving electrons and produces high-resolution results.

A team led by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energys Oak Ridge National Laboratory has developed an innovative microscopy technique to detect the spin of electrons in topological insulators.

Credit: Saban Hus, An-Ping Li/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have developed a new method that precisely measures the mysterious behavior and magnetic properties of electrons flowing across the surface of quantum materials, a breakthrough they say could lead to next-generation electronics.

The team developed a new microscopy technique to detect the spin of electrons on topological insulators, a new kind of quantum material that could be used in applications such as spintronics and quantum computing.

The researchers say as electronic devices continue to evolve and require more power squeezed into smaller components, it prompts the need for less costly, energy-efficient alternatives to charge-based electronics. They note the ORNL method builds on a four-probe scanning tunneling microscope, an instrument that can pinpoint a material's atomic activity.

Their approach includes spin sensitivity measurements and confines the current to a small area on the surface, which helps keep the electrons from escaping beneath the surface, providing high-resolution results.

From Oak Ridge National Laboratory
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