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Physicists at Northeastern have accidentally stumbled upon a way to make electrons do something entirely new, and it may revolutionize the future of our electronics.
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Imagination is the limit
“When such phenomena are discovered, imagination is the limit,” said in a statement Swastik Kar, an associate professor of physics. “It could change the way we can detect and communicate signals. It could change the way we can sense things and the storage of information, and possibilities that we may not have even thought of yet.”
What the researchers have discovered is a new way to manipulate electrical charge by getting the electrons to distribute themselves evenly into a stationary, crystalline pattern.
“I’m tempted to say it’s almost like a new phase of matter,” Kar said. “Because it’s just purely electronic.”
The researchers weren't looking for a new phase of matter. They were simply toying with crystalline materials only a few atoms thick, known as 2D materials.
A stationary pattern
They had taken two such materials, bismuth selenide, and a transition metal dichalcogenide, and stacked them above each other. It was at that moment that they noticed that the electrons in those materials weren't repelling each other but rather forming a stationary pattern.
“At certain angles, these materials seem to form a way to share their electrons that ends up forming this geometrically periodic third lattice,” Kar said. “A perfectly repeatable array of pure electronic puddles that resides between the two layers.”
At first glance, Kar assumed that there was a mistake somewhere or that something had simply gone wrong. However, after several tests, it turned out that there was nothing off and that a new phase of matter had indeed been revealed. The new discovery, according to Kar, has unlimited applications.
“The excitement at this point is in being able to potentially demonstrate something that people have never thought could exist at room temperature before,” Kar said. “And now, the sky’s the limit in terms of how we can harness it.”