Chiral magnetic effect generates quantum current

Feb 9, 2016

Scientists at the U.S Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University have discovered a new way to generate very low-resistance electric current in a new class of materials. The discovery, which relies on the separation of right- and left-“handed” particles, points to a range of potential applications in energy, quantum computing, and medical imaging, and possibly even a new mechanism for inducing superconductivity—the ability of some materials to carry current with no energy loss.

The material the scientists worked with, zirconium pentatelluride, has a surprising trait: When placed in parallel electric and magnetic fields, it responds with an imbalance in the number of right- and left-handed particles—a chiral imbalance. That imbalance pushes oppositely charged particles in opposite directions to create a powerful electric current.

This “chiral magnetic effect” had long been predicted theoretically, but never observed definitively in a materials science laboratory at the time this work was done.
In fact, when physicists in Brookhaven’s Condensed Matter Physics & Materials Science Department (CMP&MS) first measured the significant drop in electrical resistance, and the accompanying dramatic increase in conductivity, they were quite surprised.

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