In the decades since they were first theorized, scientists have suggested that the exotic properties of topological materials—that is, materials that maintain their electrical properties even in the face of radical temperature shifts or structural deformation—could result in everything from more energy-efficient electronics to the development of novel superconductors and quantum computers.

The problem, however, is that identifying the materials with those properties is frustratingly difficult.

To speed up the process, Professor of Physics Ashvin Vishwanath and his colleagues conducted a series of studies to develop methods for efficiently identifying that display topological properties.

The first two, published in Nature Communications and Science Advances, and co-authored with MIT Fellow Hoi Chun "Adrian" Po, Ph.D. '18, and Professor Haruki Watanabe of Tokyo University, lay the groundwork for bridging the relevant abstract mathematical concepts with the pragmatic problem of materials discovery. The second, published in Nature this February and co-authored with Po and Feng Tang and Xingang Wan, from Nanjing University, demonstrates the power of the approach and predicts thousands of topological materials candidates.

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