Direct observation of a magnetic-field-induced Wigner crystal

Yen Chen Tsui, Minhao He, Yuwen Hu, Ethan Lake, Taige Wang, Kenji Watanabe, Takashi Taniguchi, Michael P. Zaletel, Ali Yazdani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Wigner predicted that when the Coulomb interactions between electrons become much stronger than their kinetic energy, electrons crystallize into a closely packed lattice1. A variety of two-dimensional systems have shown evidence for Wigner crystals2–11 (WCs). However, a spontaneously formed classical or quantum WC has never been directly visualized. Neither the identification of the WC symmetry nor direct investigation of its melting has been accomplished. Here we use high-resolution scanning tunnelling microscopy measurements to directly image a magnetic-field-induced electron WC in Bernal-stacked bilayer graphene and examine its structural properties as a function of electron density, magnetic field and temperature. At high fields and the lowest temperature, we observe a triangular lattice electron WC in the lowest Landau level. The WC possesses the expected lattice constant and is robust between filling factor ν ≈ 0.13 and ν ≈ 0.38 except near fillings where it competes with fractional quantum Hall states. Increasing the density or temperature results in the melting of the WC into a liquid phase that is isotropic but has a modulated structure characterized by the Bragg wavevector of the WC. At low magnetic fields, the WC unexpectedly transitions into an anisotropic stripe phase, which has been commonly anticipated to form in higher Landau levels. Analysis of individual lattice sites shows signatures that may be related to the quantum zero-point motion of electrons in the WC lattice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-292
Number of pages6
JournalNature
Volume628
Issue number8007
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 11 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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