Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Topological material switched off and on for the first time

11.12.2018

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types of insulators: normal insulators which don't conduct electricity, and topological insulators - newly discovered materials that conduct electricity only on their edges.


This is an Na3Bi structure shown with sodium atoms white and bismuth atoms blue.

Credit: FLEET

Now, FLEET researchers at Monash University, Australia, have for the first time successfully 'switched' a material between these two states of matter via application of an electric-field. This is the first step in creating a functioning topological transistor - a proposed new generation of ultra-low energy electronic devices.

Ultra-low energy electronics such as topological transistors would allow computing to continue to grow, without being limited by available energy as we near the end of achievable improvements in traditional, silicon-based electronics (a phenomenon known as the end of Moore's Law).

"Ultra-low energy topological electronics are a potential answer to the increasing challenge of energy wasted in modern computing," explains study author Professor Michael Fuhrer.

"Information and Communications Technology (ICT) already consumes 8% of global electricity, and that's doubling every decade."

This new study is a major advance towards that goal of a functioning topological transistor.

HOW IT WORKS: TOPOLOGICAL MATERIALS AND TOPOLOGICAL TRANSISTORS

Topological insulators are novel materials that behave as electrical insulators in their interior, but can carry a current along their edges.

"In these edge paths, electrons can only travel in one direction," explains lead author Dr Mark Edmonds. "And this means there can be no 'back-scattering,' which is what causes electrical resistance in conventional electrical conductors."

Unlike conventional electrical conductors, such topological edge paths can carry electrical current with near-zero dissipation of energy, meaning that topological transistors could burn much less energy than conventional electronics. They could also potentially switch must faster.

Topological materials would form a transistor's active, 'channel' component, accomplishing the binary operation used in computing, switching between open (0) and closed (1).

"This new switch works on a fundamentally different principle than the transistors in today's computers," explains Dr Edmonds. "We envision such switches facilitating a completely new computing technology, which uses lower energy."

The electric field induces a quantum transition from 'topological' insulator to conventional insulator.

To be a viable alternative to current, silicon-based technology (CMOS), topological transistors must:

  • operate at room temperature (without the need for expensive supercooling),
  • 'switch' between conducting (1) and non-conducting (0), and
  • switch extremely rapidly, by application of an electric field."

While switchable topological insulators have been proposed in theory, this is the first time that experiment has proved that a material can switch at room temperature, which is crucial for any viable replacement technology.

(In this study, experiments were conducted at cryogenic temperatures, but the large band-gap measured confirms that the material will switch properly at room temperatures.)

ICT ENERGY USE, THE END OF MOORE'S LAW AND 'BEYOND CMOS' SOLUTIONS

The overarching challenge behind the work is the growing amount of energy used in information and communication technology (ICT), a large component of which is driven by switching.

Each time a transistor switches, a tiny amount of energy is burnt, and with trillions of transistors switching billions of times per second, this energy adds up.

For many years, the energy demands of an exponentially growing number of computations was kept in check by ever-more efficient, and ever-more compact CMOS (silicon based) microchips - an effect related to the famous 'Moore's Law'. But as fundamental physics limits are approached, Moore's Law is ending, and there are limited future efficiencies to be found.

"The information technology revolution has improved our lives, and we want it to continue," says Prof Michael Fuhrer.

"But for computation to continue to grow, to keep up with changing demands, we need more-efficient electronics."

"We need a new type of transistor that burns less energy when it switches."

"This discovery is a step in the direction of topological transistors that could transform the world of computation."

  • The energy burnt in computation accounts for 8% of global electricity use
  • ICT energy use is doubling every decade
  • ICT contributes as much to climate change as the aviation industry
  • Moore's Law, which has kept ICT energy in check for 50 years, will end in the next decade.

###

THE STUDY

The study Electric Field-Tuned Topological Phase Transition in Ultra-Thin Na3Bi was published today in Nature.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The study was funded by the Australian Research Council's Centres of Excellence and DECRA Fellowship programs, while travel to Berkeley was funded by the Australian Synchrotron.

TOPOLOGICAL MATERIALS AND FLEET

Topological materials are investigated within FLEET's Research theme 1, seeking ultra-low resistance electronic paths with which to create a new generation of ultra-low energy electronics.

FLEET is an Australian Research Council-funded research centre bringing together over a hundred Australian and international experts to develop a new generation of ultra-low energy electronics, motivated by the need to reduce the energy consumed by computing.

MORE INFORMATION

Media Contact

Errol Hunt
media@FLEET.org.au
61-423-139-210

 @FLEETcentre

http://www.fleet.org.au 

Errol Hunt | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.fleet.org.au/blog/topological-material-switched-off-and-on-for-the-first-time-key-advance-for-future-topological-transistors/
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0788-5

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht A robot and software make it easier to create advanced materials
05.12.2019 | Rutgers University

nachricht First field measurements of laughing gas isotopes
05.12.2019 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The coldest reaction

With ultracold chemistry, researchers get a first look at exactly what happens during a chemical reaction

The coldest chemical reaction in the known universe took place in what appears to be a chaotic mess of lasers. The appearance deceives: Deep within that...

Im Focus: How do scars form? Fascia function as a repository of mobile scar tissue

Abnormal scarring is a serious threat resulting in non-healing chronic wounds or fibrosis. Scars form when fibroblasts, a type of cell of connective tissue, reach wounded skin and deposit plugs of extracellular matrix. Until today, the question about the exact anatomical origin of these fibroblasts has not been answered. In order to find potential ways of influencing the scarring process, the team of Dr. Yuval Rinkevich, Group Leader for Regenerative Biology at the Institute of Lung Biology and Disease at Helmholtz Zentrum München, aimed to finally find an answer. As it was already known that all scars derive from a fibroblast lineage expressing the Engrailed-1 gene - a lineage not only present in skin, but also in fascia - the researchers intentionally tried to understand whether or not fascia might be the origin of fibroblasts.

Fibroblasts kit - ready to heal wounds

Im Focus: McMaster researcher warns plastic pollution in Great Lakes growing concern to ecosystem

Research from a leading international expert on the health of the Great Lakes suggests that the growing intensity and scale of pollution from plastics poses serious risks to human health and will continue to have profound consequences on the ecosystem.

In an article published this month in the Journal of Waste Resources and Recycling, Gail Krantzberg, a professor in the Booth School of Engineering Practice...

Im Focus: Machine learning microscope adapts lighting to improve diagnosis

Prototype microscope teaches itself the best illumination settings for diagnosing malaria

Engineers at Duke University have developed a microscope that adapts its lighting angles, colors and patterns while teaching itself the optimal...

Im Focus: Small particles, big effects: How graphene nanoparticles improve the resolution of microscopes

Conventional light microscopes cannot distinguish structures when they are separated by a distance smaller than, roughly, the wavelength of light. Superresolution microscopy, developed since the 1980s, lifts this limitation, using fluorescent moieties. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research have now discovered that graphene nano-molecules can be used to improve this microscopy technique. These graphene nano-molecules offer a number of substantial advantages over the materials previously used, making superresolution microscopy even more versatile.

Microscopy is an important investigation method, in physics, biology, medicine, and many other sciences. However, it has one disadvantage: its resolution is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

The Future of Work

03.12.2019 | Event News

First International Conference on Agrophotovoltaics in August 2020

15.11.2019 | Event News

Laser Symposium on Electromobility in Aachen: trends for the mobility revolution

15.11.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Detailed insight into stressed cells

05.12.2019 | Life Sciences

State of 'hibernation' keeps haematopoietic stem cells young - Niches in the bone marrow protect from ageing

05.12.2019 | Life Sciences

First field measurements of laughing gas isotopes

05.12.2019 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>