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A scanning tunneling microscope image shows two different coexisting surface phases in a single layer of tin atoms on a silicon substrate.

UT researchers have succeeded in manipulating the electronic behavior of a sheet material the thickness of a single atom layer without compromising its chemical composition or structural integrity.

Using a technology known as modulation doping, they exposed a hidden state of matter—one whose macroscopic properties emerge from purely quantum mechanical principles—that is stabilized and controlled by charges originating from a supporting silicon template. The findings, reported this week in Nature Communications, suggest new possibilities for using quantum matter phenomena in silicon-based nanoelectronics and information technology.

The study is the work of Fangfei Ming, UT physics postdoctoral research associate, and colleagues.

Quantum mechanics describes atomic- and subatomic-scale systems and explains, for instance, how atomic nuclei decay or how lasers work. The microelectronics industry has been revolutionized by scientists’ ability to control the properties of electronic materials restricted to three dimensions.

Researchers are going even smaller by studying two-dimensional materials and ultimately getting down to a single layer of atoms, known as the two-dimensional quantum limit. Arguably the most famous example is graphene, a single layer of carbon atoms that’s ultra-light, strong, and flexible.

Continue reading on the Department of Physics and Astronomy website.