Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types of insulators: normal insulators which don't conduct electricity, and topological insulators -- newly discovered materials that conduct electricity only on their edges.
Now, FLEET researchers at Monash University, Australia, have for the first time successfully 'switched' a material between these two states of matter via application of anelectric-field. This is the first step in creating a functioning topological transistor -- a proposed new generation of ultra-low energy electronic devices.
Ultra-low energy electronics such as topological transistors would allow computing to continue to grow, without being limited by available energy as we near the end of achievable improvements in traditional, silicon-based electronics (a phenomenon known as the end of Moore's Law).
"Ultra-low energy topological electronics are a potential answer to the increasing challenge of energy wasted in modern computing," explains study author Professor Michael Fuhrer.
"Information and Communications Technology (ICT) already consumes 8% of global electricity, and that's doubling every decade."
This new study is a major advance towards that goal of a functioning topological transistor.