Scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have taken a big step toward the practical application of “valleytronics,” which is a new type of electronics that could lead to faster and more efficient computer logic systems and data storage chips in next-generation devices.
As reported online April 4 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the scientists experimentally demonstrated, for the first time, the ability to electrically generate and control valley electrons in a two-dimensional semiconductor.
Ref: Electrical generation and control of the valley carriers in a monolayer transition metal dichalcogenide. Nature Nanotechnology (4 April 2016) | DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2016.49
Electrically controlling the flow of charge carriers is the foundation of modern electronics. By accessing the extra spin degree of freedom (DOF) in electronics, spintronics allows for information processes such as magnetoresistive random-access memory. Recently, atomic membranes of transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs) were found to support unequal and distinguishable carrier distribution in different crystal momentum valleys. This valley polarization of carriers enables a new DOF for information processing. A variety of valleytronic devices such as valley filters and valves have been proposed5, and optical valley excitation has been observed. However, to realize its potential in electronics it is necessary to electrically control the valley DOF, which has so far remained a significant challenge. Here, we experimentally demonstrate the electrical generation and control of valley polarization. This is achieved through spin injection via a diluted ferromagnetic semiconductor and measured through the helicity of the electroluminescence due to the spin–valley locking in TMDC monolayers. We also report a new scheme of electronic devices that combine both the spin and valley DOFs. Such direct electrical generation and control of valley carriers opens up new dimensions in utilizing both the spin and valley DOFs for next-generation electronics and computing.