Europhys. Lett.
Volume 75, Number 2, July 2006
Page(s) 287 - 293
Section Condensed matter: electronic structure, electrical, magnetic, and optical properties
Published online 14 June 2006
Europhys. Lett., 75 (2), pp. 287-293 (2006)
DOI: 10.1209/epl/i2005-10599-6

Novel breakdown of the quantum Hall effect: An example of self-organised criticality?

M. Elliott1, Y. Lu1, K. L. Phillips1, W. G. Herrenden-Harker1, A. Usher2, A. J. Matthews2, J. D. Gething2, M. Zhu2, M. Henini3 and D. A. Ritchie4

1  School of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff University - Cardiff CF24 3YB, UK
2  School of Physics, University of Exeter - Exeter EX4 4QL, UK
3  School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nottingham Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK
4  Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge - Cambridge, CB3 0HE, UK

received 15 November 2005; accepted in final form 23 May 2006
published online 14 June 2006

We observe a novel breakdown of the quantum Hall effect in a two-dimensional electron gas using a contact-free method in which circulating eddy currents are induced upon sweeping the magnetic field, and are detected via their magnetic moment. The currents are largest around integer filling factor, where the longitudinal resistivity $\rho_{xx} \rightarrow 0$. Below about 1$\un{K}$, a strong "noisy" behaviour of the induced current is seen around filling factor $\nu=2$. We interpret this using a model in which the circulating current is accompanied by a radial Hall electric field and consequent charge build up near the sample edge. Breakdown occurs at random "weak points" in the sample when the Hall field reaches a critical value, causing an "avalanche" of charge to be re-distributed to the bulk. The frequency distribution of the low-temperature noise jumps follows a power law, consistent with self-organised criticality.

73.43.-f - Quantum Hall effects.
73.43.Fj - Novel experimental methods; measurements.
05.65.+b - Self-organized systems.

© EDP Sciences 2006