skip to main content
DOE PAGES title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: Emergence of the persistent spin helix in semiconductor quantum wells

Abstract

According to Noether’s theorem, for every symmetry in nature there is a corresponding conservation law. For example, invariance with respect to spatial translation corresponds to conservation of momentum. In another well-known example, invariance with respect to rotation of the electron’s spin, or SU(2) symmetry, leads to conservation of spin polarization. For electrons in a solid, this symmetry is ordinarily broken by spin–orbit coupling, allowing spin angular momentum to flow to orbital angular momentum. Yet, it has recently been predicted that SU(2) can be achieved in a two-dimensional electron gas, despite the presence of spin–orbit coupling. The corresponding conserved quantities include the amplitude and phase of a helical spin density wave termed the ‘persistent spin helix’. SU(2) is realized, in principle, when the strengths of two dominant spin–orbit interactions, the Rashba (strength parameterized by α) and linear Dresselhaus (β1) interactions, are equal. This symmetry is predicted to be robust against all forms of spin-independent scattering, including electron–electron interactions, but is broken by the cubic Dresselhaus term (β3) and spin-dependent scattering. When these terms are negligible, the distance over which spin information can propagate is predicted to diverge as α approaches β1. Here we introduce experimental observation of the emergence of themore » persistent spin helix in GaAs quantum wells by independently tuning α and β1. Using transient spin-grating spectroscopy, we find a spin-lifetime enhancement of two orders of magnitude near the symmetry point. Excellent quantitative agreement with theory across a wide range of sample parameters allows us to obtain an absolute measure of all relevant spin–orbit terms, identifying β3 as the main SU(2)-violating term in our samples. The tunable suppression of spin relaxation demonstrated in this work is well suited for application to spintronics.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [2];  [3];  [4];  [5];  [6];  [6]
  1. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States)
  2. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States); Santa Clara Univ., Santa Clara, CA (United States)
  3. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States); Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA (United States)
  4. Princeton Univ., NJ (United States)
  5. Stanford Univ., CA (United States)
  6. Univ. of California, Santa Barbara, CA (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
SLAC National Accelerator Lab., Menlo Park, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (SC-22). Materials Sciences & Engineering Division; National Science Foundation (NSF); US Department of the Navy, Office of Naval Research (ONR)
OSTI Identifier:
1443050
Report Number(s):
SLAC-PUB-13988
Journal ID: ISSN 0028-0836
Grant/Contract Number:  
AC02-76SF00515
Resource Type:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Nature (London)
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Name: Nature (London); Journal Volume: 458; Journal Issue: 7238; Journal ID: ISSN 0028-0836
Publisher:
Nature Publishing Group
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
71 CLASSICAL AND QUANTUM MECHANICS, GENERAL PHYSICS

Citation Formats

Koralek, J. D., Weber, C. P., Orenstein, J., Bernevig, B. A., Zhang, Shou-Cheng, Mack, S., and Awschalom, D. D. Emergence of the persistent spin helix in semiconductor quantum wells. United States: N. p., 2009. Web. doi:10.1038/nature07871.
Koralek, J. D., Weber, C. P., Orenstein, J., Bernevig, B. A., Zhang, Shou-Cheng, Mack, S., & Awschalom, D. D. Emergence of the persistent spin helix in semiconductor quantum wells. United States. doi:10.1038/nature07871.
Koralek, J. D., Weber, C. P., Orenstein, J., Bernevig, B. A., Zhang, Shou-Cheng, Mack, S., and Awschalom, D. D. Thu . "Emergence of the persistent spin helix in semiconductor quantum wells". United States. doi:10.1038/nature07871. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1443050.
@article{osti_1443050,
title = {Emergence of the persistent spin helix in semiconductor quantum wells},
author = {Koralek, J. D. and Weber, C. P. and Orenstein, J. and Bernevig, B. A. and Zhang, Shou-Cheng and Mack, S. and Awschalom, D. D.},
abstractNote = {According to Noether’s theorem, for every symmetry in nature there is a corresponding conservation law. For example, invariance with respect to spatial translation corresponds to conservation of momentum. In another well-known example, invariance with respect to rotation of the electron’s spin, or SU(2) symmetry, leads to conservation of spin polarization. For electrons in a solid, this symmetry is ordinarily broken by spin–orbit coupling, allowing spin angular momentum to flow to orbital angular momentum. Yet, it has recently been predicted that SU(2) can be achieved in a two-dimensional electron gas, despite the presence of spin–orbit coupling. The corresponding conserved quantities include the amplitude and phase of a helical spin density wave termed the ‘persistent spin helix’. SU(2) is realized, in principle, when the strengths of two dominant spin–orbit interactions, the Rashba (strength parameterized by α) and linear Dresselhaus (β1) interactions, are equal. This symmetry is predicted to be robust against all forms of spin-independent scattering, including electron–electron interactions, but is broken by the cubic Dresselhaus term (β3) and spin-dependent scattering. When these terms are negligible, the distance over which spin information can propagate is predicted to diverge as α approaches β1. Here we introduce experimental observation of the emergence of the persistent spin helix in GaAs quantum wells by independently tuning α and β1. Using transient spin-grating spectroscopy, we find a spin-lifetime enhancement of two orders of magnitude near the symmetry point. Excellent quantitative agreement with theory across a wide range of sample parameters allows us to obtain an absolute measure of all relevant spin–orbit terms, identifying β3 as the main SU(2)-violating term in our samples. The tunable suppression of spin relaxation demonstrated in this work is well suited for application to spintronics.},
doi = {10.1038/nature07871},
journal = {Nature (London)},
number = 7238,
volume = 458,
place = {United States},
year = {2009},
month = {4}
}

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
Publisher's Version of Record

Citation Metrics:
Cited by: 336 works
Citation information provided by
Web of Science

Save / Share:

Works referenced in this record:

Exact SU(2) Symmetry and Persistent Spin Helix in a Spin-Orbit Coupled System
journal, December 2006


Spin-Orbit Coupling Effects in Zinc Blende Structures
journal, October 1955


Spin Gratings and the Measurement of Electron Drift Mobility in Multiple Quantum Well Semiconductors
journal, June 1996


Datta-Das-type spin-field-effect transistor in the nonballistic regime
journal, January 2008


Absolute phase measurement in heterodyne detection of transient gratings
journal, January 2004


Time-resolved Faraday rotation spectroscopy of spin dynamics in digital magnetic heterostructures
journal, January 1995

  • Crooker, S. A.; Awschalom, D. D.; Samarth, N.
  • IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics, Vol. 1, Issue 4
  • DOI: 10.1109/2944.488685

Theory of spin-charge-coupled transport in a two-dimensional electron gas with Rashba spin-orbit interactions
journal, October 2004


Nondiffusive Spin Dynamics in a Two-Dimensional Electron Gas
journal, February 2007


Nonballistic Spin-Field-Effect Transistor
journal, April 2003


Spin relaxation in a generic two-dimensional spin-orbit coupled system
journal, March 2007


Nonuniform segregation of Ga at AlAs/GaAs heterointerfaces
journal, January 1997


Spin-orbit splitting of electronic states in semiconductor asymmetric quantum wells
journal, June 1997

  • de Andrada e. Silva, E. A.; La Rocca, G. C.; Bassani, F.
  • Physical Review B, Vol. 55, Issue 24
  • DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.55.16293

Fermi-level-pinning-induced impurity redistribution in semiconductors during epitaxial growth
journal, July 1990


Cubic Dresselhaus Spin-Orbit Coupling in 2D Electron Quantum Dots
journal, May 2007


Ab Initio Prediction of Conduction Band Spin Splitting in Zinc Blende Semiconductors
journal, March 2006


Spin Coulomb drag in the two-dimensional electron liquid
journal, July 2003


Observation of spin Coulomb drag in a two-dimensional electron gas
journal, October 2005


Spin relaxation in n-type GaAs quantum wells with transient spin grating
journal, March 2008

  • Weng, M. Q.; Wu, M. W.; Cui, H. L.
  • Journal of Applied Physics, Vol. 103, Issue 6
  • DOI: 10.1063/1.2899962

Random spin–orbit coupling and spin relaxation in symmetric quantum wells
journal, January 2003


    Works referencing / citing this record:

    Semiclassical approach for spin dephasing in a quasi-one-dimensional channel
    journal, January 2012


    Hole spin relaxation in p -type (111) GaAs quantum wells
    journal, June 2012


    Prediction of extremely long mobile electron spin lifetimes at room temperature in wurtzite semiconductor quantum wells
    journal, February 2011

    • Harmon, N. J.; Putikka, W. O.; Joynt, Robert
    • Applied Physics Letters, Vol. 98, Issue 7
    • DOI: 10.1063/1.3555628

    Spin-helix states in the XXZ spin chain with strong boundary dissipation
    journal, September 2017

    • Popkov, Vladislav; Schmidt, Johannes; Presilla, Carlo
    • Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical, Vol. 50, Issue 43
    • DOI: 10.1088/1751-8121/aa86cb

    Intrinsic persistent spin helix state in two-dimensional group-IV monochalcogenide M X monolayers ( M = Sn or Ge and X = S , Se, or Te)
    journal, September 2019


    Semiclassical approach for spin dephasing in a quasi-one-dimensional channel
    journal, January 2012


    Hole spin relaxation in p -type (111) GaAs quantum wells
    journal, June 2012


    Inelastic light-scattering from spin-density excitations in the regime of the persistent spin helix in a GaAs-AlGaAs quantum well
    journal, February 2014


    Spin-orbit interaction in GaAs wells: From one to two subbands
    journal, February 2015


    Doping-induced persistent spin helix with a large spin splitting in monolayer SnSe
    journal, February 2019


    Solution of the Lindblad equation for spin helix states
    journal, April 2017


    Absence of Spontaneous Magnetic Order of Lattice Spins Coupled to Itinerant Interacting Electrons in One and Two Dimensions
    journal, September 2011


    Persistent Skyrmion Lattice of Noninteracting Electrons with Spin-Orbit Coupling
    journal, November 2016


    Reversible out-of-plane spin texture in a two-dimensional ferroelectric material for persistent spin helix
    journal, May 2019


    Colloquium : Persistent spin textures in semiconductor nanostructures
    journal, January 2017