Topological insulator could enable more energy efficient devices

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A research team at UCLA has developed a new class of topological insulators in which one of two layers is magnetised. The team claims the advance could lead to the development of more energy efficient data processing systems and ultra low power electronic devices.

Team leader Professor Kang Wang, said: "We are very excited about this important result with the new topological insulators, which should lead to the advancement of future low power, green electronics." Topological materials, which can act as insulators and conductors, have the potential to be used a range of electronic devices. While their interiors prevent the flow of electrical currents, the surface of a topological insulator allows current to move with very little resistance and support the transport of spin polarised electrons. SEE ALSO: Graphene's growing family: The successor to silicon turns up some interesting new materials The topological insulator created at UCLA has two layers, one of which contains chromium. An electrical current that drives spin polarised electrons can also switch the up-down polarity of chromium atoms, allowing the device to write memory or perform calculations. Significantly, the researchers claim, the two layer structure uses 1000 times less energy to switch polarity than comparable memory structures. Researcher Yabin Fan noted: "This is the first time that topological insulators have been incorporated in a magnetic structure that can be efficiently switched and is, perhaps, the first demonstration of potential applicable devices based on topological insulators."