Using an advanced technique, scientists discover that one of the most common substances in our everyday lives — glass — is more complex than we thought.

Discovery of a new kind of electron spin superstructure in crystals opens the tantalizing prospect of finding other emergent exotic phases.

Deep in their beautiful lattices, crystals hold secrets about the future of technology and science. Ryan Baumbach aims to find them.

This week at the lab, scientists are using a brand new tool to tweak the crystal structure of materials in the hopes of imbuing them with potentially useful properties.

Using a technique called pulsed laser deposition, physicist Christianne Beekman is creating thin films of materials less than 100 nanometers thick — one one-thousandth the thickness of a sheet of paper. The process involves vaporizing a target material with a class 4 laser, generating a colorful plume of plasma. When that plasma settles on a waiting piece of substrate, the result is a thin film that alters the original structure of the material in a way that can induce new magnetic or electrical properties.

“Sometimes in these complex materials a slight change in the interatomic distance could tip it over to an entirely different phase,” said Beekman. The original “bulk” material might, for example, change from a metal to an insulator in its thin film form (or vice versa) – a nifty trick with potentially powerful applications in electronics and computers. Beekman is also looking at materials that might make excellent solar cells, if photons hitting thin-film versions of them turn out to generate more than one electron per photon.

After creating thin films in this new instrument, Beekman and her team will use MagLab magnets and other facilities to investigate their properties.

“The ability to grow high-quality complex oxide thin films allows us to accelerate materials discovery,” said Beekman, “which will lead to the technologies of tomorrow.”

Video by Stephen Bilenky / Text by Kristen Coyne

A material that you may never have heard of could be paving the way for a new electronic revolution.

The work by Dagan et. al. explores the emergence and coexistence of superconductivity and magnetism at the interface between insulating, non-magnetic LaAlO3 and SrTiO3 nanowires at low temperatures. The effect of the antiparallel magnetic order on the resistance of the 50 nm wide patterned wires follows the form of giant magnetoresistance (GMR) at low applied magnetic fields.

A team of researchers from Université de Sherbrooke, Laboratoire National des Champs Magnétiques Intenses (LNCMI), University of British Columbia, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory discovered a previously unobserved portion of the Fermi surface in underdoped YBCO. This discovery provides further evidence to support the picture of the Fermi surface being reconstructed as a result of charge density wave order developing in underdoped YBCO prior to the material entering the superconducting state at lower temperatures.

Researchers investigating a strange material show how it could advance the development of next-generation transistors for the superfast electronics of tomorrow.

MagLab scientists working with graphene — a stronger-than steel, but feathery light material with a myriad of intriguing attributes — have observed new properties that bring this high-tech super material closer to everyday use.

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