Researchers Nitin Samrth and David D Awschalom of Pennsylvania State University and University of Chicago, respectively, recently had a “light bulb” moment when they discovered that their flourescent laboratory lights electrically polarise the substrate material on which they had grown their topological insulator material, changing its electronic properties.
Topological insulators have unique properties, making them promising candidates for use in electronic devices and quantum computers. So far, creating experimental circuitry using traditional methods has proven difficult, often destroying the topological insulator’s delicate properties. This new technique offers a host of advantages over chemical processing as it allows the circuits to be erased and re-written, while being noninvasive, leaving the material’s quantum properties intact.
The paper published in Science Advances reports both the discovery of the effect and demonstates the group drawing and erasing a p-n junction in a topological insultor for the first time. If you are interested in topological insulators and their properties you can find a selection of JPCM papers here.
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Image used on homepage adapted from Schnyder et al J. Phys.: Condens. Matter 27 243201. Copyright IOP Publishing 2015. Original source of information; Penn State press release.
Categories: Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter