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­a Researchers Observe Electrons Zipping Around in Crystals

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UA Ph.D. student Calley Eads

Calley Eads inspects a TMD sample in a vacuum chamber to get it ready for measurement.

Credit: Kyle Mittan / University of Arizona

Researchers at the University of Arizona (UA) are investigating transition metal dichalcogenides' (TMDs) potential for enabling new techniques for data processing and storage. UA's Calley Eads notes TMDs' energy efficiency is apparent when they are rendered as large, atomically thin sheets, but UA professor Oliver Monti says some of these same properties are exhibited in more readily accessible crystals.

"We built what is essentially a clock that can time moving electrons like a stopwatch," Monti says. "This allowed us to make the first direct observations of electrons moving in crystals in real time."

The "stopwatch" makes it possible to monitor moving electrons at attosecond resolution, and the team also discovered the charge flow relies on direction. Using X-rays to excite individual electrons and boost their energy levels enabled their movements to be tracked, and this could let engineers manipulate electrons using light such as a laser to optically write, read, and process information.

From University of Arizona
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