May 2021
Physicists uncover secrets of world's
thinnest superconductor
Part of the resonant inelastic x-ray scattering (RIXS) instrument at Diamond Light Source (UK) that was used to uncover secrets of the world’s thinnest superconductor. Photo courtesy Diamond Light Source
Work helps answer 30-year-old questions, could lead to better medical diagnostics, more

Physicists from across three continents report the first experimental evidence to explain the unusual electronic behavior behind the world’s thinnest superconductor, a material with myriad applications because it conducts electricity extremely efficiently. In this case the superconductor is only an atomic layer thick.
 
The work, led by an MIT professor and a physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, was possible thanks to new instrumentation available at only a few facilities in the world. The resulting data could help guide the development of better superconductors. These in turn could transform the fields of medical diagnostics, quantum computing, and energy transport, which all use superconductors.
MIT turns "magic" material into versatile
electronic devices
Daniel Rodan-Legrain holds up a chip carrier used in the research described in Nature Nanotechnology. He stands next to a dilution refrigerator similar to that used in the work.Photo by Bharath Kannan, MIT
Work also promises new insights into superconductivity

In a feat worthy of a laboratory conceived by J.K. Rowling, MIT researchers and colleagues have turned a “magic” material composed of atomically thin layers of carbon into three useful electronic devices. Normally, such devices, all key to the quantum electronics industry, are created using a variety of materials that require multiple fabrication steps. The MIT approach automatically solves a variety of problems associated with those more complicated processes.

As a result, the work could usher in a new generation of quantum electronic devices for applications including quantum computing. Further, the devices can be superconducting, or conduct electricity without resistance. They do so, however, through an unconventional mechanism that, with further study, could give new insights into the physics of superconductivity. The researchers report their results in the May 3, 2021 issue of Nature Nanotechnology.
Materials breakthrough enables
twistronics for bulk systems
SMART researchers have found that phenomena related to the formation of moiré superlattices observed in two-dimensional systems can be translated to tune optical properties of three-dimensional, bulk-like hexagonal boron nitride, even at room temperature.

Image courtesy of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology.
SMART findings allow a new way to control light emitting from materials.
Researchers from the Low Energy Electronic Systems (LEES) interdisciplinary research group at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), MIT’s research enterprise in Singapore, together with MIT and National University of Singapore (NUS), have discovered a new way to control light emission from materials.

Controlling the properties of materials has been the driving force behind many modern technologies — from solar panels to computers, smart vehicles, and lifesaving hospital equipment. But materials properties have traditionally been adjusted based on their composition, structure, and sometimes size, and most practical devices that produce or generate light use layers of materials of different compositions that can often be difficult to grow.

Advance may enable "2D" transistors for
tinier microchip components
At the interface between the semimetal (bismuth) and the 2D semiconductor (MoS2), there is no energy barrier for the electron to go through, leading to an ultralow contact resistance between them.

Image courtesy of the researchers
Atomically thin materials are a promising alternative to silicon-based transistors; now researchers can connect them more efficiently to other chip elements.
Moore’s Law, the famous prediction that the number of transistors that can be packed onto a microchip will double every couple of years, has been bumping into basic physical limits. These limits could bring decades of progress to a halt, unless new approaches are found.

One new direction being explored is the use of atomically thin materials instead of silicon as the basis for new transistors, but connecting those “2D” materials to other conventional electronic components has proved difficult.

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