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Quantum oscillations of electrical resistivity in an insulator

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Science  05 Oct 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6410, pp. 65-69
DOI: 10.1126/science.aap9607

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Insulator or a metal?

When a metal is cooled to low temperatures and placed in an external magnetic field, its resistivity may oscillate as the magnitude of the field is varied. Seeing these so-called quantum oscillations in an insulating material would be very unusual. Xiang et al. report such findings in the insulator ytterbium dodecaboride (YbB12) (see the Perspective by Ong). In addition to oscillations in resistivity, the authors observed oscillations in the magnetic torque. The results present a challenge to theories that aim to explain the insulating state of YbB12.

Science, this issue p. 65; see also p. 32

Abstract

In metals, orbital motions of conduction electrons on the Fermi surface are quantized in magnetic fields, which is manifested by quantum oscillations in electrical resistivity. This Landau quantization is generally absent in insulators. Here, we report a notable exception in an insulator—ytterbium dodecaboride (YbB12). The resistivity of YbB12, which is of a much larger magnitude than the resistivity in metals, exhibits distinct quantum oscillations. These unconventional oscillations arise from the insulating bulk, even though the temperature dependence of the oscillation amplitude follows the conventional Fermi liquid theory of metals with a large effective mass. Quantum oscillations in the magnetic torque are also observed, albeit with a lighter effective mass.

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