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Presented By: CM-AMO Seminars

CM-AMO Seminar | Chiral phonon-spin coupling in hexagonal lattices

Hanyu Zhu (Rice University)

The electronic and magnetic properties of solids are fundamentally determined by the crystal structures. When the structure keeps evolving, the properties are usually determined by the instantaneous lattice configurations, but this may not always be true. When phonons are coherently excited in solids, the atoms oscillate back and forth around their equilibrium positions, and one would expect the perturbation on electronic properties to largely cancel out. But a qualitative change might be possible with atomic motions called “chiral phonons”, which break time-reversal symmetry and would in principle affect all properties protected by such symmetry. Chiral phonons with quantized angular momentum are simply guaranteed by multi-fold rotational symmetry, and thus are rather common in materials and have been predicted to cause unexpected magnetic, topological, and transport phenomena. In this talk, I will first briefly introduce the discovery of chiral phonons in two-dimensional (2D) semiconductors, which exhibit spin-valley locking and chiral electron-phonon coupling. I will then discuss the general properties of chiral phonons originating from time-reversal symmetry breaking, and give an example on the optical control and the magnetic properties of chiral phonons in rare earth halides. Finally, I will introduce quantum coherent spin-phonon coupling in 2D antiferromagnets, leading to magnon-phonon hybridization, nontrivial topology, and chiral edge states. Together, these phenomena demonstrate a new paradigm of dynamic structural-property relationship in quantum materials.

Bio: Dr Hanyu Zhu is an assistant professor of Materials Science and NanoEngineering at Rice University. He earned his B.S. in Mathematics and Physics in Tsinghua University in China, when he got into the field of nanomaterials. He obtained his Ph.D. in Applied Science and Technology in the University of California at Berkeley for studying electromechanics of atomically thin crystals. After postdoctoral research at Berkeley developing novel optical spectroscopy for phonons, he started the Emerging Quantum and Ultrafast Materials Lab in 2018, with a focus on optical control of quantum materials. He has a joint appointment in the department of Physics and Astronomy, and is a member of the Rice Center for Quantum Materials as well as the Rice Quantum Initiative. He received the ORAU Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award in 2019 and the NSF CAREER Award in 2023.

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