Nav: Home

Novel insulators with conducting edges

June 01, 2018

Topology examines the properties of objects and solids that are protected against perturbations and deformations. Materials known so far include topological insulators, which are crystals that insulate on the inside but conduct electrical current on their surface. The conducting surfaces are topologically protected, which means that they cannot easily be brought into an insulating state.

New class of materials: Higher-order topological insulators

Theoretical physicists at the University of Zurich have now predicted a new class of topological insulators that have conducting properties on the edges of crystals rather than on their surface. The research team, made up of scientists from UZH, Princeton University, the Donostia International Physics Center and the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics in Halle, dubbed the new material class "higher-order topological insulators". The extraordinary robustness of the conducting edges makes them particularly interesting: The current of topological electrons cannot be stopped by disorder or impurities. If an imperfection gets in the way of the current, it simply flows around the impurity.

Like a highway for electrons

In addition, the crystal edges do not have to be specially prepared to conduct electrical current. If the crystal breaks, the new edges automatically also conduct current. "The most exciting aspect is that electricity can at least in theory be conducted without any dissipation," says Titus Neupert, professor at the Department of Physics at UZH. "You could think of the crystal edges as a kind of highway for electrons. They can't simply make a U-turn." This property of dissipationless conductance, otherwise known from superconductors at low temperatures, is not shared with the previously known topological insulator crystals that have conducting surfaces, but is specific to the higher-order topological crystals.

Further theoretical and experimental research needed

The physicists' study still mostly relies on theoretical aspects. They have proposed tin telluride as the first compound to show these novel properties. "More material candidates have to be identified and probed in experiments," says Neupert. The researchers hope that in the future nanowires made of higher-order topological insulators may be used as conducting paths in electric circuits. They could be combined with magnetic and superconducting materials and used for building quantum computers.
-end-
Literature:

Frank Schindler, Ashley M. Cook, Maia G. Vergniory, Zhijun Wang, Stuart S. P. Parkin, B. Andrei Bernevig, Titus Neupert. Higher-order topological insulators. Science Advances, June 1st, 2018. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat0346

University of Zurich

Related Electrons Articles:

Deceleration of runaway electrons paves the way for fusion power
Fusion power has the potential to provide clean and safe energy that is free from carbon dioxide emissions.
Shining light on low-energy electrons
The classic method for studying how electrons interact with matter is by analyzing their scattering through thin layers of a known substance.
Ultrafast nanophotonics: Turmoil in sluggish electrons' existence
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behavior of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time.
NASA mission uncovers a dance of electrons in space
NASA's MMS mission studies how electrons spiral and dive around the planet in a complex dance dictated by the magnetic and electric fields, and a new study revealed a bizarre new type of motion exhibited by these electrons.
'Hot' electrons don't mind the gap
Rice University scientists discover that 'hot' electrons can create a photovoltage about a thousand times larger than ordinary temperature differences in nanoscale gaps in gold wires.
Electrons used to control ultrashort laser pulses
We may soon get better insight into the microcosm and the world of electrons.
Supercool electrons
Study of electron movement on helium may impact the future of quantum computing.
Two electrons go on a quantum walk and end up in a qudit
There is a variety of physical systems that can be used to implement a separate quantum bit, but significantly less research has been done into systems of several qubits or qudits.
Radiation that knocks electrons out and down, one after another
Researchers at Japan's Tohoku University are investigating novel ways by which electrons are knocked out of matter.
Controlling electrons in time and space
A new method has been developed to control electrons being emitted from metal tips.

Related Electrons Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#530 Why Aren't We Dead Yet?
We only notice our immune systems when they aren't working properly, or when they're under attack. How does our immune system understand what bits of us are us, and what bits are invading germs and viruses? How different are human immune systems from the immune systems of other creatures? And is the immune system so often the target of sketchy medical advice? Those questions and more, this week in our conversation with author Idan Ben-Barak about his book "Why Aren't We Dead Yet?: The Survivor’s Guide to the Immune System".