NIST-led team uses graphene to create and image coupled quantum dots

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and their colleagues have used graphene and STM technology to create and image a novel pair of quantum dots — tiny islands of confined electric charge that act like interacting artificial atoms. Such “coupled” quantum dots could serve as a robust quantum bit, or qubit, the fundamental unit of information for a quantum computer. Moreover, the patterns of electric charge in the island can’t be fully explained by current models of quantum physics, offering an opportunity to investigate rich new physical phenomena in materials.

Graphene aids in imaging qubits imagea system of coupled quantum dots taken by STM shows electrons orbiting within two concentric sets of rings, separated by a gap. The inner set of rings represents one quantum dot; the outer, brighter set represents a larger, outer quantum dot. Credit: NIST

The NIST -led team included researchers from the University of Maryland NanoCenter and the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan. The team used the ultrasharp tip of a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) as if it were a stylus of sorts. Hovering the tip above an ultracold sheet of graphene, the researchers briefly increased the voltage of the tip.

Graphene enables researchers to visualize the flow of electrons

Researchers from Israel's Weizmann Institute and the UK's Manchester University have succeeded in imaging electrons' hydrodynamic flow pattern for the first time using a novel scanning probe technique. They have proven the longstanding scientific theory that electrons can behave like a viscous liquid as they travel through a conducting material, producing a spatial pattern that resembles water flowing through a pipe.

The results of this study could help developers of future electronic devices, especially those based on 2D materials like graphene in which electron hydrodynamics is important.

Stanford team finds novel form of magnetism in twisted bi-layer graphene

Stanford physicists recently observed a novel form of magnetism, predicted but never seen before, that is generated when two graphene sheets are carefully stacked and rotated to a special angle. The researchers suggest the magnetism, called orbital ferromagnetism, could prove useful for certain applications, such as quantum computing.

bi-layer graphene between hBN gives off orbital ferromagnetism imageOptical micrograph of the assembled stacked structure, which consists of two graphene sheets sandwiched between two protective layers made of hexagonal boron nitride. (Image: Aaron Sharpe)

“We were not aiming for magnetism. We found what may be the most exciting thing in my career to date through partially targeted and partially accidental exploration,” said study leader David Goldhaber-Gordon, a professor of physics at Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences. “Our discovery shows that the most interesting things turn out to be surprises sometimes.”

Graphene enables researchers to control infrared and terahertz waves

Researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) in Switzerland and the University of Manchester in the UK have found an efficient way to control infrared and terahertz waves using graphene. "There exist a class of the so-called Dirac materials, where the electrons behave as if they do not have a mass, similar to light particles, the photons," explains Alexey Kuzmenko, a researcher at the Department of Quantum Matter Physics in UNIGE's Science Faculty, who co-conducted this research together with Ievgeniia Nedoliuk.

The interaction between graphene and light suggests that this material could be used to control infrared and terahertz waves. "That would be a huge step forward for optoelectronics, security, telecommunications and medical diagnostics," points out the Switzerland-based researcher.

Unique device that combines graphene and boron nitride can switch from superconducting to insulating

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have designed a graphene device that switches from a superconducting material to an insulator and back again to a superconductor — all with a flip of a switch. The team shared that the device exhibits this unique versatility while being thinner than a human hair.

Graphene and hBN device moves from insulating to superconducting imageViews of the trilayer graphene/boron nitride heterostructure device as seen through an optical microscope. The gold, nanofabricated electric contacts are shown in yellow; the silicon dioxide/silicon substrate is shown in brown and the boron nitride flakes

"Usually, when someone wants to study how electrons interact with each other in a superconducting quantum phase versus an insulating phase, they would need to look at different materials. With our system, you can study both the superconductivity phase and the insulating phase in one place," said Guorui Chen, the study's lead author and a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Feng Wang, who led the study. Wang, a faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division, is also a UC Berkeley physics professor.