Topological insulators are materials that are electrical insulators in the bulk but can conduct electricity on their surface via special surface electronic states. The ability to conduct on the surface happens because electrons reside on the surface are ordered differently from ordinary materials. This ordering happens as the result of a physical concept called ‘topology’. This leads to some special properties.
A new review of topological insulators has been provided by physicists from the University of Groningen. The review looks at current development problems as well as with future applications.
The electrons ordered on topological insulators have the values ‘up’ or ‘down’ locked into their movement, according to Controlled Environments magazine. In practice this means electrons moving to the right have spin down and those moving to the left have spin up. However, when electrons are injected into the insulator they always travel to the left. This special property sparks an interest in the field of spintronics. This is about developing electronics based on the quantized spin value rather than the charge of electrons. Spintronics fundamentally differs from traditional electronics in that, in addition to charge state, electron spins are exploited as a further degree of freedom, with implications in the efficiency of data storage and transfer.
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Source: Digital Journal