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Topological insulators -- materials whose surfaces can freely conduct electrons even though their interiors are electrical insulators -- have been of great interest to physicists in recent years because of unusual properties that may provide insights into quantum physics. But most analysis of such materials has had to rely on highly simplified models.

Now, a team of researchers at MIT has performed a more detailed analysis that hints at the existence of six new kinds of topological insulators. The work also predicts the materials' physical properties in sufficient detail that it should be possible to identify them unambiguously if they are produced in the lab, the scientists say.

The new findings are reported this week in the journal Science by MIT professor of physics Senthil Todadri, graduate student Chong Wang, and Andrew Potter, a former MIT graduate student who is now a postdoc at the University of California at Berkeley.

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