The Dresselhaus effect is a phenomenon in solid-state physics in which spin–orbit interaction causes energy bands to split. It is usually present in crystal systems lacking inversion symmetry. The effect is named after Gene Dresselhaus, husband of Mildred Dresselhaus, who discovered this splitting in 1955.
Spin–orbit interaction is a relativistic coupling between the electric field produced by an ion-core and the resulting dipole moment arising from the relative motion of the electron, and its intrinsic magnetic dipole proportional to the electron spin. In an atom, the coupling weakly splits an orbital energy state into two states: one state with the spin aligned to the orbital field and one anti-aligned. In a solid crystalline material, the motion of the conduction electrons in the lattice can be altered by a complementary effect due to the coupling between the potential of the lattice and the electron spin. If the crystalline material is not centro-symmetric, the asymmetry in the potential can favour one spin orientation over the opposite and split the energy bands into spin aligned and anti-aligned subbands.
The Rashba spin–orbit coupling has a similar energy band splitting, but the asymmetry comes either from the bulk asymmetry of uniaxial crystals (e.g. of wurtzite type) or the spatial inhomogeneity of an interface or surface. Dresselhaus and Rashba effects are often of similar strength in the band splitting of GaAs nanostructures.