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Two-and-a-half years ago, Charles Kane and Eugene Mele received the 2019 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. The award recognized their theories that predicted the existence of topological insulators, a new class of material with the unique property of being an electrical insulator on the inside and having a surface that conducts electricity. Their work has had a profound impact on many areas of physics and provided new insights for understanding a material’s unique properties, with potential applications ranging from more efficient electronics to superfast quantum computers.

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