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Topological Insulators Move a Step Closer to Computing Uses

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With this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics going to three physicists for their “theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter,” it would appear that things are looking up for the nascent prospects of topological insulators.

Topological insulators (TIs) are materials that behave like conductors near their surfaces but act as insulators throughout the bulk of their interiors. While such materials had long been thought theoretically possible, only recently have research labs around the world begun producing materials with these properties. This has buoyed hopes that they could someday be used in technologies ranging from “spintronics” to quantum computers.

Now an international team of researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and the Beijing Institute of Technology in China have developed a way that makes it far easier to magnetize TIs, improving the odds that they’ll be applied to computing.