Physicists create tunable superconductivity in twisted graphene “nanosandwich” | MIT News

When two sheets of graphene are stacked atop one another at simply the proper angle, the layered construction morphs into an unconventional superconductor, permitting electrical currents to move by way of with out resistance or wasted power.

This “magic-angle” transformation in bilayer graphene was noticed for the primary time in 2018 within the group of Pablo Jarillo-Herrero, the Cecil and Ida Inexperienced Professor of Physics at MIT. Since then, scientists have looked for different supplies that may be equally twisted into superconductivity, within the rising subject of “twistronics.” For essentially the most half, no different twisted materials has exhibited superconductivity aside from the unique twisted bilayer graphene, till now.

In a paper showing in the present day in Nature, Jarillo-Herrero and his group report observing superconductivity in a sandwich of three graphene sheets, the center layer of which is twisted at a unique approach with respect to the outer layers. This new trilayer configuration reveals superconductivity that’s extra sturdy than its bilayer counterpart.

The researchers may also tune the construction’s superconductivity by making use of and ranging the power of an exterior electrical subject. By tuning the trilayer construction, the researchers had been capable of produce ultra-strongly coupled superconductivity, an unique kind {of electrical} conduct that has not often been seen in every other materials.

“It wasn’t clear if magic-angle bilayer graphene was an distinctive factor, however now we all know it’s not alone; it has a cousin within the trilayer case,” Jarillo-Herrero says. “The invention of this hypertunable superconductor extends the twistronics subject into totally new instructions, with potential functions in quantum info and sensing applied sciences.”

His co-authors are lead writer Jeong Min Park and Yuan Cao at MIT, and Kenji Watanabe and Takashi Taniguchi of the Nationwide Institute of Supplies Science in Japan.

A brand new tremendous household

Shortly after Jarillo-Herrero and his colleagues discovered that superconductivity may very well be generated in twisted bilayer graphene, theorists proposed that the identical phenomenon is likely to be seen in three or extra layers of graphene.

A sheet of graphene is an atom-thin layer of graphite, made totally of carbon atoms organized in a honeycomb lattice, just like the thinnest, sturdiest hen wire. The theorists proposed that if three sheets of graphene had been stacked like a sandwich, with the center layer rotated by 1.56 levels with respect to the outer layers, the twisted configuration would create a sort of symmetry that may encourage electrons within the materials to pair up and circulate with out resistance — the hallmark of superconductivity.

“We thought, why not, let’s give it a attempt to check this concept,” Jarillo-Herrero says.

Park and Cao engineered trilayer graphene constructions by rigorously slicing a single gossamer sheet of graphene into three sections and stacking every part on high of one another on the exact angles predicted by the theorists.

They made a number of trilayer constructions, every measuring a couple of micrometers throughout (about 1/100 the diameter of a human hair), and three atoms tall.

“Our construction is a nanosandwich,” Jarillo-Herrero says.

The group then connected electrodes to both finish of the constructions, and ran an electrical present by way of whereas measuring the quantity of power misplaced or dissipated within the materials.

“We noticed no power dissipated, which means it was a superconductor,” Jarillo-Herrero says. “Now we have to present credit score to the theorists — they bought the angle proper.”

He provides that the precise reason for the construction’s superconductivity — whether or not attributable to its symmetry, because the theorists proposed, or not — stays to be seen, and is one thing that the researchers plan to check in future experiments.

“For the second now we have a correlation, not a causation,” he says. “Now a minimum of now we have a path to presumably discover a big household of latest superconductors primarily based on this symmetry concept.”

“The most important bang”

In exploring their new trilayer construction, the group discovered they may management its superconductivity in two methods. With their earlier bilayer design, the researchers may tune its superconductivity by making use of an exterior gate voltage to vary the variety of electrons flowing by way of the fabric. As they dialed the gate voltage up and down, they measured the essential temperature at which the fabric stopped dissipating power and have become superconductive. On this approach, the group was capable of tune bilayer graphene’s superconductivity on and off, much like a transistor.

The group used the identical technique to tune trilayer graphene. In addition they found a second approach to management the fabric’s superconductivity that has not been attainable in bilayer graphene and different twisted constructions. Through the use of an extra electrode, the researchers may apply an electrical subject to vary the distribution of electrons between the construction’s three layers, with out altering the construction’s total electron density.

“These two unbiased knobs now give us quite a lot of details about the situations the place superconductivity seems, which might present perception into the important thing physics essential to the formation of such an uncommon superconducting state,” Park says.

Utilizing each strategies to tune the trilayer construction, the group noticed superconductivity underneath a variety of situations, together with at a comparatively excessive essential temperature of three kelvins, even when the fabric had a low density of electrons. As compared, aluminum, which is being explored as a superconductor for quantum computing, has a a lot increased density of electrons and solely turns into superconductive at about 1 kelvin.

“We discovered magic-angle trilayer graphene could be the strongest coupled superconductor, which means it superconducts at a comparatively excessive temperature, given how few electrons it may possibly have,” Jarillo-Herrero says. “It provides the most important bang in your buck.”

“The work is a significant step up in structural complexity of a twistronic system that may be faithfully reproduced in a number of samples,” says David Goldhaber-Gordon, a professor of physics at Stanford College who was not concerned within the research. “That structural complexity isn’t just pursued for its personal sake however somewhat goals to make the impact of digital interactions tunable. Purposes of such refined multilayer constructions will possible be in quantum info science the place the beautiful management of digital construction can be essential. ”

The researchers plan to manufacture twisted graphene constructions with greater than three layers to see whether or not such configurations, with increased electron densities, can exhibit superconductivity at increased temperatures, even approaching room temperature.

“Our predominant purpose is to determine the elemental nature of what underlies strongly coupled superconductivity,” Park says. “Trilayer graphene is just not solely the strongest-coupled superconductor ever discovered, but additionally essentially the most tunable. With that tunability we are able to actually discover superconductivity, in every single place within the section house.”

This analysis was supported, partly, by the Division of Power, the Nationwide Science Basis, the Gordon and Betty Moore Basis, and the Ramon Areces Basis.

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