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New phases of two-dimensional electrons in excited Landau levels

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  • Physics


The subject of this dissertation is the experimental discovery and investigation of a new class of collective phases in two-dimensional electron systems. The experiments mainly involve magnetotransport measurements in very high quality GaAs/AlGaAs semiconductor heterostructures, where a large perpendicular magnetic field serves to resolve the electrons? energy spectrum into discrete Landau levels. The most dramatic evidence of a new many-body phase is the huge and unprecedented resistance anisotropy observed only below 150 mK and around the half-filling points of the highly excited Landau levels N > 1. Associated with these anisotropic states are other novel electron phases whose transport signature is a vanishing longitudinal conductivity occurring in the flanks of the same excited Landau levels. Although reminiscent of the well-understood integer quantum Hall states, the insulating phases are exceptional for being driven by electron interactions rather than single-particle localization. A persuasive theoretical picture based on "stripe" and "bubble" charge density wave formation in high Landau levels can account for many of the experimental results. For example, the broken orientational symmetry of the stripe state may underlie the observed transport anisotropy, while disorder-induced pinning of the bubble lattice could give rise to the insulating regions in high Landau levels. Further investigation of the anisotropic transport characteristics has elucidated possible symmetry-breaking mechanisms of the purported stripe phase and has provided evidence that the stripes may be more accurately described as a quantum electronic liquid crystal. In addition, experiments involving the breakdown of the insulating regions at high voltage biases may point to a depinning transition of the bubble phase. These results have spurred intense interest in the field of correlated electron systems in two dimensions and may be an indication of the variety of new phenomena in condensed matter systems still awaiting discovery.

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