Scientists Find New Quantum States by Stacking Layers of Graphene Together

Research from Brown and Columbia Universities discover new states arising from double-layered graphene.

Scientists Find New Quantum States by Stacking Layers of Graphene Together
A new type of quasiparticle Michelle Miller and Jia Li/Brown University

A new discovery from researchers from Brown and Columbia Universities in the US has demonstrated that unknown states of matter arise from stacking two-dimensional layers of graphene together.

Graphene is a nanomaterial, a material that has particles of nanoscale dimensions. In other words, a billionth of a meter.

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These new states have been named the fractional quantum Hall effect (FQHE), and are created through the complex interactions of electrons within and across graphene layers. 

Why is this useful?

"In terms of materials engineering, this work shows that these layered systems could be viable in creating new types of electronic devices that take advantage of these new quantum Hall states," said Jia Li, assistant professor at Brown.

Li started this research along with Cory Dean, professor of physics and Jim Hone, professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia University.

Li continued: "The findings show that stacking 2-D materials together in close proximity generates entirely new physics."

This research, named "Pairing states of composite fermions in double-layer graphene", is published in the journal Nature Physics.

Further demonstrating the potential importance of this research, Hone pointed out that these new quantum Hall states "may be useful in making fault-tolerant quantum computer."

A quantum computer puts together some of the almost-inexplicable phenomena of quantum mechanics, in turn assisting in processing power. These may surpass current and potentially future supercomputers.

Quite the discovery!

How did the researchers make this discovery?

The team worked from material that had been discovered over years of research at Columbia and improved the quality of graphene devices. They ended up creating ultra-clean devices made of atomically flat 2-D materials. 

Dean said, "Once again the incredible versatility of graphene has allowed us to push the boundaries of device structures beyond what was previously possible."

He continued: "The precision and tunability with which we can make these devices is now allowing us to explore an entire realm of physics that was just recently thought to be totally inaccessible."

This new research is an exciting discovery for physicists and engineers alike as it may impact the future of quantum computers. 

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