Silicene Poster Wins International Prize

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LCN PhD student Tobias Gill is the recipient of an Excellent Poster award at an international symposium on the Functionality of Organized Nanostructures (FON’14) held in the Odaiba area of Tokyo, Japan on November 27th and 28th. Tobias’ poster was one of five chosen by feedback from invited speakers at FON’14, an event that encourages participants to discuss the future of nanotechnology.

The poster represents some of the first results from a new collaboration between a group led by Cyrus Hirjibehedin at the LCN and the Yamada-Takamura group at the Japan Advanced Institute for Science and Technology (JAIST) based in Nomi, Japan. Tobias, who is in his second year, is one of the first PhD students to be jointly supervised by the two institutions.

Tobias presented his work on the material silicene, a honeycomb lattice of silicon atoms that is predicted to share many of the interesting properties  of graphene, whilst exhibiting significant differences that may prove useful in nanoscaled device applications. His poster illustrated the rich array of properties that can be manifested in two dimensional layers of silicon nanostructures grown on top of silicene, and the substantial variation in phases that can be seen on different substrates.

The Hirjibehedin group at the LCN investigates nanoscaled quantum structures using state-of-the-art scanning tunnelling microscopes that make it possible to simultaneously image and probe the structural, electronic, and magnetic properties of individual atoms and molecules. The group explores the interactions between these fundamental building blocks and with novel low-dimensional substrates, with a view to generating new insights into how to construct atomic scaled information processing, data storage, and sensing devices.

The exciting new two-dimensional material silicene is predicted to exhibit many interesting electronic properties. These include the behaviour of charge carriers as “massless” Dirac fermions, analogously to graphene. However,  because the six silicon atoms in the silicene hexagonal structure are found at two different heights with respect to their supporting substrate, a plethora of exotic topological phenomena are also expected. Recently the collaborators have investigated the evolution of the structural and electronic properties of silicon layers grown on a silicene/ZrB2 surface. The surprising finding was that these silicon layers form a structure significantly different to that of bulk silicon, evident electronically from the increased metallic behaviour that is observed. Future steps will involve investigating how these novel 2D substrates interact with individual magnetic atoms and molecules, and to what extent the intriguing domain structure of these surfaces may be employed to engineer interactions between coupled magnetic moments.