The physicists at Northeastern University have discovered a new way to manipulate electric charge. And the changes to the future of our technology could be monumental. Swastik Kar is an associate professor of Physics at Northeastern University. He believes that this new phenomenon could change the way we can detect and communicate signals. The ability to move, manipulate, and store electrons are the key to the vast majority of modern technology. In a paper published in Nanoscale, the researchers described a way to make electrons do something entirely new: Distribute themselves evenly into a stationary, crystalline pattern.
While the researchers were running experiments with 2D materials, the phenomenon appeared. These materials are made up of a repeating pattern of atoms. They are so thin that the electrons in them can only move in two dimensions. This is when bismuth selenide and a transition metal dichalcogenide, layered on top of each other like sheets of paper and that’s when things got weird. It is a known fact that electrons repel one another. But these electrons were forming a stationary pattern. Initially, Kar assumed that the result was a mistake but when the resulting pattern revealed a third layer that couldn’t be coming from either of the other two, Kar thought something had gone wrong in the creation of the material or in the measurement process. However, after repeated testing and experiments led by doctoral student Zachariah Hennighausen, their results remained the same. There was a new lattice-style pattern of charged spots appearing between the 2D materials, which changed with the orientation of the two sandwiching layers.
Arun Bansil is a university distinguished professor of Physics at Northeastern University. He, along with doctoral student Chistopher Lane, examined the theoretical possibilities of the phenomena. Bansil explained that electrons are always bouncing around. But in this case, something about the way these charges are laid out is pooling electrons in a specific pattern. They produce regions with ditches of some kind in the potential landscape, which create these puddles of charge. The only reason electrons will form into puddles is because there’s a potential hole there. These ditches are created by a combination of quantum mechanical and physical factors. While the understanding of this phenomenon is still in its infancy, it has the potential to impact the future of electronics, sensing and detection systems, and information processing.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman