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2Physics Quote:
"Many of the molecules found by ROSINA DFMS in the coma of comet 67P are compatible with the idea that comets delivered key molecules for prebiotic chemistry throughout the solar system and in particular to the early Earth increasing drastically the concentration of life-related chemicals by impact on a closed water body. The fact that glycine was most probably formed on dust grains in the presolar stage also makes these molecules somehow universal, which means that what happened in the solar system could probably happen elsewhere in the Universe."
-- Kathrin Altwegg and the ROSINA Team

(Read Full Article: "Glycine, an Amino Acid and Other Prebiotic Molecules in Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko"

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Unconventional Fractional Quantum Hall Sequence in Graphene

Ben Feldman (left) and Amir Yacoby (right)

Authors: Ben Feldman and Amir Yacoby

Affiliation: Department of Physics, Harvard University, USA

Graphene, a two-dimensional sheet of carbon that is one atom thick, has attracted considerable interest due to its unique and potentially useful physical properties. Like other two-dimensional materials, application of a perpendicular magnetic field leads to the formation of a sequence of flat energy bands called Landau levels (LLs). At high magnetic fields or when samples are very clean, interactions among electrons become important and produce additional energy gaps, even when the LLs are only partially filled. This phenomenon is known as the fractional quantum Hall effect (FQHE), and it leads to striking physical consequences such as excitations with a fraction of an electron charge [1-3].

Graphene provides an especially rich platform to study the FQHE. The low dielectric constant and unique band structure lead to FQH states with energy gaps that are larger than in GaAs at the same field. Moreover, charge carriers in graphene have an overall fourfold degeneracy that arises from their spin and valley degrees of freedom. This means that graphene can support FQH states that have no analogues in more conventional systems. Suspending samples above the substrate or depositing them on boron nitride minimizes disorder, and the FQHE was recently observed in such devices at all multiples of filling factor ν = 1/3 up to 13/3, except at ν = 5/3 [4-7]. The absence of a state at ν = 5/3 might result from low-lying excitations associated with the underlying symmetries in graphene, but alternate scenarios associated with disorder could not be ruled out in prior studies.

Figure 1: Picture of the scanning Single-Electron Transistor (SET) microscope setup

To further explore this behavior, we used a scanning single-electron transistor (SET) to probe a suspended graphene flake [8]. The SET is a unique local probe that is particularly non-invasive. It measures the presence of energy gaps in the electronic spectrum with sensitivity that no other technique can provide and therefore is very well adapted to the exploration of the FQHE. Moreover, we are able to study small regions of a graphene flake, and these local measurements reveal a dramatic improvement in sample quality relative to prior studies of larger-scale areas.

Our measurements show that electron-electron interactions in graphene produce different types and patterns of electronic states from what has been observed in more conventional materials. Although we observe the standard sequence of FQH states between ν = 0 and 1, states only occur at even-numerator fractions between ν = 1 and 2. This suggests that both spin and valley degeneracy are lifted below ν = 1, but one symmetry remains between ν = 1 and 2. The pattern of states that we observe and their corresponding energy gaps indicate an intriguing interplay between electron-electron interactions and the underlying symmetries of graphene.

Figure 2: Schematic of the measurement setup. The scanning single-electron transistor is held about 100 nm above a suspended graphene flake, and it measures the energy cost of adding additional electrons to the system.

Moreover, the scanning technique allows us to study variations in behavior as a function of position. Although all regions of the graphene flake show qualitatively similar behavior, local doping shifts the gate voltage required to observe each FQH state. Global measurements such as transport studies therefore require an especially homogenous sample to observe the delicate effects associated with interactions among electrons, whereas using a local probe allows us to observe especially clean regions and therefore observe more of the intrinsic physics.

Figure 3: Inverse compressibility of graphene as a function of carrier density and magnetic field. Incompressible behavior, which indicates the presence of an energy gap, is labeled at integer and certain fractional filling factors.

In the future, we are interested in continuing to explore the unusual FQH in graphene. In particular, we hope to better understand how the electrons are ordered in the various FQH states. We are also interested in learning more about the FQHE at higher filling factors and in related materials such as bilayer graphene.

[1] D. C. Tsui, H. L. Stormer, A. C. Gossard, “Two-dimensional magnetotransport in the extreme quantum limit”, Physical Review Letters, 48, 1559 (1982). Abstract.
[2] R. B. Laughlin, “Anomalous quantum Hall-effect - an incompressible quantum fluid with fractionally charged excitations”, Physical Review Letters, 50, 1395 (1983). Abstract.
[3] J. K. Jain, “Composite-fermion approach for the fractional quantum Hall-effect”, Physical Review Letters, 63, 199 (1989). Abstract.
[4] Kirill I. Bolotin, Fereshte Ghahari, Michael D. Shulman, Horst L. Stormer, Philip Kim, “Observation of the fractional quantum Hall effect in graphene”, Nature, 462, 196 (2009). Abstract.
[5] Xu Du, Ivan Skachko, Fabian Duerr, Adina Luican, Eva Y. Andrei, “Fractional quantum Hall effect and insulating phase of Dirac electrons in graphene”, Nature, 462, 192 (2009). Abstract.
[6] C. R. Dean, A. F. Young, P. Cadden-Zimansky, L. Wang, H. Ren, K. Watanabe, T. Taniguchi, P. Kim, J. Hone, K. L. Shepard, “Multicomponent fractional quantum Hall effect in graphene”, Nature Physics, 7, 693 (2011). Abstract.
[7] Dong Su Lee, Viera Skákalová, R. Thomas Weitz, Klaus von Klitzing, Jurgen H. Smet, “Transconductance fluctuations as a probe for interaction induced quantum Hall states in graphene”,  Physical Review Letters, 109, 056602 (2012). Abstract.
[8] Benjamin E. Feldman, Benjamin Krauss, Jurgen H. Smet, Amir Yacoby, “Unconventional sequence of fractional quantum Hall states in Suspended Graphene”, Science. 337, 1196 (2012). Abstract.

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