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New Exotic Material Could Revolutionize Electronics

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Physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have discovered that the compound bismuth telluride acts as a topological insulator, enabling electrons to flow freely across its surface with no loss of energy.

The material has the potential to lead to much faster and more efficient computer chips and serve as the foundation for spintronics.

Bismuth telluride serves as a topological insulator at room temperature, but the tests suggest that the material could withstand even higher temperatures. "This means that the material is closer to application than we thought," says physicist Yulin Chen. The electrons are well-behaved, and adding a voltage leads the special spin current to flow without heating the material or dissipating. "This could lead to new applications of spintronics, or using the electron spin to carry information," says theorist Xiaoliang Qi.

The researchers add that bismuth telluride is a three-dimensional material that could be easily fabricated with current semiconductor technologies.

From SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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