Imagine a patch of material an inch across – wide enough to handle – but only one atomic layer thick.
“It’s a simple concept, really,” said Paul Malinowski, a Klarman Fellow in physics in the College of Arts and Sciences. “You pull on it.”
Applying strain to atomically thin sheets of iron-based superconductors he synthesizes in the lab is one technique Malinowski is attempting to use to study the complex world of electron behavior in quantum materials. It’s simple in concept but complex in practice.
“Paul is a world expert at using mechanical strain to precisely manipulate the properties of materials, for instance, applying a small force to turn superconductivity ‘on’ and ‘off’ in a certain class of iron-based superconductors,” said Kyle Shen, the James A. Weeks Professor of Physical Sciences in physics and Malinowski’s faculty host. “We are hoping to apply the tools and techniques that Paul pioneered during his Ph.D. research [at the University of Washington] to a broader class of materials that we synthesize and study at Cornell.”