The new discovery could one day lead to electronic materials that provide both computation and data storage.
They’re not exactly the peanut butter and jelly of semiconductors, but when you put them together, something magical happens.
Alone, neither lanthanum aluminate nor strontium titanate exhibit any particularly notable properties. But when they are layered together, they become not only conductive, but also magnetic.
In the current online edition of Nature Physics, researchers at The Ohio State University report the first-ever theoretical explanation to be offered for this phenomenon since it was discovered in 2004.
Understanding how these two semiconductors interact at their interface could someday lead to a different kind of material—one that provides a single platform for computation and data storage, said Mohit Randeria, co-author of the paper and professor of physics at Ohio State.
“The whole question is, how can you take two materials which do not conduct electricity and do not have magnetic properties, make a sandwich out of them and—lo and behold—at the interface tween them, charge begins to flow and interesting magnetic effects happen?” he said.
“It’s like taking two pieces of bread and putting them together and having the sandwich filling magically appear.”