UT Dallas researchers further work on topological insulators

Topological insulators can be divided into two categories, strong and weak. | File photo

Physicists from the University of Texas Dallas are researching topological insulators, materials whose external electrical properties are the opposite of their internal ones, and which could support more advanced electronics and powerful computers.

“These materials are made of the same thing throughout, from the interior to the exterior,” Dr. Fan Zhang, assistant professor of physics at UT Dallas, said. “But, the interior does not conduct electrons — it’s an insulator — while the electrons on the surface are free to move around. The surface is therefore a conductor, like a metal, but it is in fact more robust than a metal.”

Topological insulators can be divided into two categories, strong and weak. Zhang explained the difference by positing a topological insulator cube, wherein a strong version would conduct electrons on all sides and a weak one only on four, with the top and bottom still serving as insulation. His research has focused on weak topological insulators, for which he recently devised a new creation method.

“This class of materials we are proposing is a unique platform for exploring exotic physics with fairly simple chemistry,” Zhang said. “With further research and experimentation, our findings could lead to significant advances in technology, especially in electronics and quantum computing.”

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