University researchers have developed a new material that could improve the efficiency of computer processing and memory.
Developed by a team of scientists at the University of Minnesota, headed up by lead researcher Jian-Ping Wang, the new material is in a class of its own called "topological insulators".
These materials have been studied recently by physics and materials research communities and the semiconductor industry because of their unique spin-electronic transport and magnetic properties.
Topological insulators are usually created using a fabrication technique called "single crystal growth", or via a process called Molecular Beam Epitaxy, where the crystals are grown in a thin film.
Experts in the semiconductor industry have already requested samples of the material
Usually, both of these techniques cannot be easily scaled up for use in the semiconductor industry.
However, the University researchers used a quantum material but created it in a unique way that resulted in a material with new physical and spin-electronic properties. It's this that, they claim, could greatly improve computing and memory efficiency.
In the study, the researchers started with a chemical called bismuth selenide, a compound of bismuth and selenium. They then used a thin-film deposition technique, called 'sputtering', which is driven by the momentum exchange between the ions and atoms in the target materials due to collisions.
While the sputtering technique is common in the semiconductor industry, this is the first time it has been used to create a topological insulator material that could be scaled up for semiconductor and magnetic industry applications.
The researchers' findings were published in the journal Nature Materials, and led to the group filing a patent on the material with support from the Semiconductor Research Corporation. According to the university, experts in the semiconductor industry have already requested samples of the material.
The findings are apparently "only the beginning" for the researchers, as they said the discovery could open the door to more advances in the semiconductor industry as well as related industries, such as magnetic random access memory (MRAM) technology.
"With the new physics of these materials could come many new applications," said the paper's first author and physics PhD student in Professor Wang's lab, Mahendra Dangi Chhetri.
"Research is all about being patient and collaborating with team members. This time there was a big pay off."
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