Electronized aluminum atoms have been found to have all three essential elements: a metal and an oxygen atom.
However, the researchers found that these elements also have a non-standard electron configuration.
Electron-rich, non-electron-heavy elements, like iron, could play a key role in building a computer chip.
This could lead to new technologies such as quantum computing, quantum networks and nanotechnology, the research team said.
“There are still a lot of questions about what the properties of these non-traditional elements are, and we’re trying to understand that better, especially with the development of nanoscale electronics,” lead author Professor Michael Zouzou from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics (MPIC) in Heidelberg, Germany, said.
The team’s findings are published in the journal Nature.
The researchers found a nonstandard electron state in a nonconjugated aluminum oxide (NiO) compound.
This was expected to be a sign of the existence of a heavier electron in the material, but it didn’t turn out to be the case.
Instead, they found a higher-dimensional configuration, which is expected to have a much lower electron density.
This is important because nonconformities of the NiO compound are critical for its electronic performance.
“We find a nonintuitive way of making the material more complex by adding additional electrons,” said lead author Prof. Zousou.
“The electrons are added to a structure which is nonconcatenated, but we don’t know what is the underlying structure.”
It turns out that the Ni, which has no oxygen, and the iron are arranged in a hexagonal arrangement.
This arrangement means that electrons are not distributed evenly throughout the material.
“What’s interesting about the configuration is that it shows that there’s a nonconservation of electrons.
This shows that the materials we’re studying are highly conductive, and that’s very interesting for us,” he added.
The structure is not the only oddity found in the research.
It is also found in two other examples of the structure.
“These are the only nonconventional elements that we’ve seen that have this strange hexagonal configuration, and it has no particular reason to be.
The hexagonal structure of the materials was predicted by many previous work,” Prof. Zhao said.
These findings are consistent with the predictions of the standard model of matter, which predicts that the atoms in graphene and other materials behave as if they are made of a material of the same atomic number, but have different orbital angles.
“But there are other, more exotic, ways of forming the materials in our model,” he said.
This work is also important because the Ni oxide is a useful material for electronics because it can be used as a semiconductor, but the structure has been studied in many other applications.
Prof. Zhang said that the discovery could lead “to new electronics, for example in quantum computers, quantum networking, quantum computing based on superconducting semiconductors and nanophotonics”. “
Understanding the fundamental physical nature of these materials could have applications in many different areas.”
Prof. Zhang said that the discovery could lead “to new electronics, for example in quantum computers, quantum networking, quantum computing based on superconducting semiconductors and nanophotonics”.
The team is now working to understand how this nonconformation interacts with the material in ways that lead to the formation of “snowballs”, which could potentially lead to better electronic circuits.
The research is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).
The work was supported by the Max-Planck-Institute for Chemical Physicists (MPI), the Federal Ministry of Education, Research and Science and the German Science Foundation.