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While conventional electronics relies on the transport of electrons, components that convey spin information alone may be many times more energy efficient. Physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart have now made an important advance in the development of novel materials for such components. These materials may also be the key to quantum computers that are less susceptible to interference.

Hopes ran high when the first representatives of a new class of materials—topological insulators—were discovered some 15 years ago. Researchers predicted that the unique electronic structure of these materials would give rise to special properties on their surface, such as energy-efficient information transmission, which could facilitate the development of novel electronic components in a wide range of applications.

But to date, these possibilities could not be readily modified and controlled in applications. Despite the greatest of efforts, technological exploitation has been a long time coming. This may be about to change thanks to the discovery made by a team headed by Christian Pfleiderer, professorship for the Topology of Correlated Systems at the Technical University of Munich.

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