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From metal to insulator and back again

April 23, 2015 8:45 am | by Carnegie Institution | News | Comments

New work from the Carnegie Institution’s Russell Hemley and Ivan Naumov hones in on the physics underlying the recently discovered fact that some metals stop being metallic under pressure. Metals are compounds that are capable of conducting the flow of electrons that make up an electric current.

Long-sought magnetic mechanism observed in exotic hybrid materials

April 13, 2015 8:08 am | by Justin Eure, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists have measured the subatomic intricacies of an exotic phenomenon first predicted more...

Building shape inspires new material discovery

March 24, 2015 10:20 am | by Australian National University | News | Comments

Physicists inspired by the radical shape of a Canberra building have created a new type of...

The future of electronics could lie in material from the past

February 17, 2015 8:31 am | by Pam Frost Gorder, The Ohio State Univ. | News | Comments

The future of electronics could lie in a material from its past, as researchers from The Ohio...

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Flipping the switch

February 10, 2015 10:11 am | by Christopher R. Samoray, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Inadequate insulation is one of the largest causes of wasted energy, quickly allowing comfortable heating or cooling to disperse air outside. That’s why researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are collaborating with industry to develop a high-performance material that nearly doubles the performance of traditional insulators without a high cost premium.

Self-destructive effects of magnetically doped ferromagnetic topological insulators

January 20, 2015 8:19 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

The discovery of "topologically protected" electrical conductivity on the surface of some materials whose bulk interior acts as an insulator was among the most sensational advances in the last decade of condensed matter physics, with predictions of numerous unusual electronic states and new potential applications. But many of these predicted phenomena have yet to be observed, until now.

Topological insulators promising for spintronics, quantum computers

November 14, 2014 7:48 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researches have uncovered "smoking-gun" evidence to confirm the workings of an emerging class of materials that could make possible "spintronic" devices and practical quantum computers far more powerful than today's technologies. The materials are called topological insulators.

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Good vibrations rock an insulator to go metallic

November 11, 2014 8:24 am | by Dawn Levy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

For more than 50 years, scientists have debated what turns particular oxide insulators, in which electrons barely move, into metals, in which electrons flow freely. Some scientists sided with Nobel Prize–winning physicist Nevill Mott in thinking direct interactions between electrons were the key. Others believed, as did physicist Rudolf Peierls, that atomic vibrations and distortions trumped all.

Titania-based material holds promise as new insulator

September 4, 2014 9:50 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Research from North Carolina State Univ. shows that a type of modified titania, or titanium dioxide, holds promise as an electrical insulator for superconducting magnets, allowing heat to dissipate while preserving the electrical paths along which current flows. Superconducting magnets are being investigated for use in next-generation power generating technologies and medical devices.

Better Protection for Offshore Oil

August 22, 2014 3:45 pm | Award Winners

Increasing demand for oil as an energy source and sustained prices of oil on the world market are driving offshore oil producers to seek new finds further offshore. One challenge with deep-water projects is that the emerging oil is much hotter than the surrounding sea, which is near freezing, and needs to be kept warm as it flows through subsea flow elements and pipes to prevent blockage. As a result, flow systems on the seafloor are typically insulated. The Oil Gas & Mining R&D Div. of The Dow Chemical Company has commercialized an innovative new insulation product that can be used in projects that see oil temperatures up to 160 C.

The birth of topological spintronics

July 24, 2014 10:31 am | News | Comments

Research led by Penn State Univ. and Cornell Univ. physicists is studying "spintorque" in devices that combine a standard magnetic material with a new material known as a topological insulator. The new insulator, which is made of bismuth selenide and operates at room temperature, overcomes one of the key challenges to developing a spintronics technology based on spin-orbit coupling.

Swiss cross made from just 20 single atoms

July 15, 2014 9:14 am | News | Comments

Together with teams from Finland and Japan, physicists from the Univ. of Basel in Switzerland were able to place 20 single bromine atoms on a fully insulated surface at room temperature to form the smallest “Swiss cross” ever created. The effort is a breakthrough because the fabrication of artificial structures on an insulator at room temperature is difficult. It is largest number of atomic manipulations ever achieved at room temperature.

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Strongly interacting electrons in wacky oxide synchronize to work like the brain

May 14, 2014 2:01 pm | by Walt Mills, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

Vanadium dioxide is called a "wacky oxide" because it transitions between a conducting metal and an insulating semiconductor and with the addition of heat or electrical current. A device created by Penn State engineers uses a thin film of vanadium oxide on a titanium dioxide substrate to create an oscillating switch that could form the basis of a computational device that uses a fraction of the energy necessary for today’s computers.

Solving a mystery of thermoelectrics

April 30, 2014 10:16 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Materials that can be used for thermoelectric devices have been known for decades. But, until now, there has been no good explanation for why just a few materials work well for these applications, while most others do not. Now researchers say they have finally found a theoretical explanation for the differences, which could lead to the discovery of new, improved thermoelectric materials.

A glassy look for manganites

April 29, 2014 8:21 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Manganites show great promise as “go-to” materials for future electronic devices because of their ability to instantly switch from an electrical insulator to a conductor under a wide variety of external stimuli, including magnetic fields, photo-excitations and vibrational excitations. This ultra-fast switching arises from the different ways electrons and electron-spins in a manganite may organize or re-organize in response to such stimuli.

Controlling electron spins by light

March 27, 2014 2:16 pm | News | Comments

Topological insulators are considered a very promising material class for the development of future electronic devices because they are insulators inside but conductors at the surface. A research team in Germany has discovered how light can be used to alter the physical properties of the electrons in these materials by using it to alter electron spin at the surface.

Theorists predict new forms of exotic insulating materials

February 7, 2014 8:02 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Topological insulators have been of great interest to physicists in recent years because of unusual properties that may provide insights into quantum physics. But most analysis of such materials has had to rely on highly simplified models. Now, a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has performed a more detailed analysis that hints at the existence of six new kinds of topological insulators.

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Pressure transforms a semiconductor into a new state of matter

December 11, 2013 7:40 am | News | Comments

By applying pressure to a semiconductor, researchers have been able to transform a semiconductor into a “topological insulator” (TI), an intriguing state of matter in which a material’s interior is insulating but its surfaces or edges are conducting with unique electrical properties. This is the first time that researchers have used pressure to gradually “tune” a material into the TI state.

Will 2-D tin be the next super material?

November 22, 2013 8:09 am | News | Comments

A single layer of tin atoms could be the world’s first material to conduct electricity with 100% efficiency at the temperatures that computer chips operate, according to a team of theoretical physicists led by researchers from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford Univ.

Topological insulator breaks symmetry

November 5, 2013 8:19 am | News | Comments

An international team of scientists have discovered a new type of quantum material whose lopsided behavior may lend itself to creating novel electronics. The material is called bismuth tellurochloride, or BiTeCl. It belongs to a class of materials called topological insulators that conduct electrical current with perfect efficiency on their surfaces, but not through their middles.

Producing light to mix it up with matter

October 25, 2013 7:36 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have succeeded in producing and measuring a coupling of photons and electrons on the surface of an unusual type of material called a topological insulator. This type of coupling had been predicted by theorists, but never observed.

Quantum material may transport zero-resistance current above room temperature

September 26, 2013 9:57 am | News | Comments

A theoretical study conducted by scientists at Japan’s National Institute of Materials Science reveals the possibility of developing a quantum material to transport zero-resistance edge current above room temperature. This capability, allowed by large spin-orbit coupling, will depend on the construction of a new class of topological materials that the researchers have designed.

On the road to fault-tolerant quantum computing

September 17, 2013 7:55 am | News | Comments

An international collaboration at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Advanced Light Source has induced high-temperature superconductivity in a toplogical insulator, an important step on the road to fault-tolerant quantum computing.

Scientists make detailed map of current between insulators

September 13, 2013 7:58 am | News | Comments

When scientists found electrical current flowing where it shouldn't be—at the place where two insulating materials meet—it set off a frenzy of research that turned up more weird properties and the hope of creating a new class of electronics. Now scientists have mapped those currents in microscopic detail and found another surprise: Rather than flowing uniformly, the currents are stronger in some places than others.

Novel topological crystalline insulator shows mass appeal

August 29, 2013 4:24 pm | News | Comments

Researchers not only confirmed several theoretical predictions about topological crystalline insulators (TCIs), but made a significant experimental leap forward that revealed even more details about the crystal structure and electronic behavior of these newly identified materials. The findings reveal the unexpected level of control TCIs can have over electrons by creating mass.

Ultra-thin insulation coating makes superconducting wires thinner, more efficient

August 28, 2013 8:19 am | News | Comments

Researchers from the RIKEN Center for Life Science Technologies and Chiba Univ. have developed a high-temperature superconducting wire with an ultrathin polyimide coating only 4 micrometers thick, more than 10 times thinner than the conventional insulation used for high-temperature superconducting wires. The breakthrough should help the development of more compact superconducting coils for medical and scientific devices.

Physicists pinpoint key property of material that both conducts and insulates

August 21, 2013 2:38 pm | by Vince Stricherz, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

It is well known to scientists that the three common phases of water (ice, liquid and vapor) can exist stably together only at a particular temperature and pressure, called the triple point. Scientists now have made the first-ever accurate determination of a solid-state triple point in a substance called vanadium dioxide, which is known for switching rapidly from an electrical insulator to a conductor.

Scientists find asymmetry in topological insulators

August 14, 2013 9:29 am | News | Comments

New research shows that a class of materials being eyed for the next generation of computers behaves asymmetrically at the sub-atomic level. This research is a key step toward understanding the topological insulators that may have the potential to be the building blocks of a super-fast quantum computer that could run on almost no electricity.

Researchers discover new material for cooling electronic devices

July 29, 2013 2:24 pm | News | Comments

A team of theoretical physicists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and Boston College has identified cubic boron arsenide as a material with an extraordinarily high thermal conductivity and the potential to transfer heat more effectively from electronic devices than diamond, the best-known thermal conductor to date.

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