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Separating left- and right-handed particles in a semi-metallic material produces anomalously high conductivity  

Scientists at the U.S Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University have discovered a new way to generate very low-resistance electric current in a new class of materials. The discovery, which relies on the separation of right- and left-"handed" particles, points to a range of potential applications in energy, quantum computing, and medical imaging, and possibly even a new mechanism for inducing superconductivity—the ability of some materials to carry current with no energy loss.

This "chiral magnetic effect" had been predicted theoretically to occur in superdense nuclear matter by Dmitri Kharzeev and collaborators. However the effect had been never observed definitively in a materials science laboratory at the time this work was done. In fact, when physicists in Brookhaven's Condensed Matter Physics & Materials Science Department (CMP&MS) first measured the significant drop in electrical resistance, and the accompanying dramatic increase in conductivity, in zirconium telluride, they were quite surprised. "We didn't know this large magnitude of 'negative magnetoresistance' was possible," said Qiang Li. To test that the separation of charges could be triggered by a chiral imbalance, they compared their measurements with the mathematical predictions of how powerful the increase in conductivity should be with increasing magnetic field strength. Tonica Valla performed the measurements and visualizations using angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES) that confirmed that zirconium telluride indeed contained chiral quasi-particles.

For a complete press release of Stony Brook University, see here.

The results are published in the journal Nature Physics.

See more here.

Photo by R. Stoutenburgh, BNL


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