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First-ever quantum metal synthesized by Russian and Japanese scientists

May 31, 2017, 18:09 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Depending on the conditions, the new material can act as a normal metal, serve as an insulator, or even as a superconductor

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© Vladimir Smirnov/TASS

MOSCOW, May 31. /TASS/. Researchers from the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) together with colleagues from Japan and other Russian institutions have synthesized the very first 2D quantum metal, the Far Eastern Federal University’s press office stated.

Depending on the conditions, the new material can act as a normal metal, serve as an insulator, or even as a superconductor.

The details behind such a breakthrough might be useful for creating superconductive materials functioning at room temperatures.

What is the new material and why it is quantum?

This novel material consists of a thin film of a double layer of thallium atoms deposited on a silicon substrate. Such material is called 2D since the thickness of the thallium film is negligibly small compared to other dimensions: length and width.

Because of the small size of the system the quantum effects play a huge role there.

At temperatures below 0.96 K (-272 Degree Centigrade) and under simultaneous exposure to a magnetic field, this material can change its properties. In a strong magnetic field, it becomes as an insulator, in a weak field - a superconductor, while in fields of intermediate values, it remains a normal metal.

Such unusual behavior has been already foreseen theoretically but has been never observed in experiments before.

The importance of discovery

"For more than thirty years, there has been an ongoing scientific discussion on 2D metal approaching the absolute zero on the temperature scale. Should it remain a metal? Will it still conduct an electric current? For the first time, our experiments have proven that apart from the transition to an insulate or superconductive state, the 2D system may also remain a normal metal. This unusual state has been called quantum metal," commented Alexander Saranin, a study coauthor, a corresponding member of RAS and a research assistant at FEFU.

Hence, the scientists demonstrated the possibility of the existence of a normal metal state in 2D as well as in 3D.

According to the researchers, "the study of this event might help in future works on creating superconductors functioning at room temperatures."

The work was carried out by researchers from the FEFU, the Institute of Automation and Control Processes from the Far Eastern Branch of RAS, and University of Tokyo (Japan). The results of the study was published in the prominent international scientific journal 2D Materials.

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