Stony Brook University Researchers Develop a New Highly Efficient Conducting Material

September 25, 2020 by Stephanie Leonida

An international team of physicists research a new material that could help create more efficient electrical conductors and change the face of quantum electronics. 

New and more efficient electrical conductors could be an innovation of the near future for the power electronics community as Stony Brook University researchers unveil a new material invention. An assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences at Stony Brook University (and also an Affiliate Associate Research Scientist at the Flatiron Institute’s Center for Computational Quantum Physics), Jennifer Cano, helped create this highly insulating material along with a team of international physicists. 


Credit: CC0 Public Domain;

Credit: CC0 Public Domain


In findings published in Nature Physics, the researchers described the structure of the newly discovered conducting material. It is layered by two structures and forms an ordered superlattice. At high temperatures, it is a highly efficient insulator that is able to conduct electricity without heat dissipation and without losing energy. The new material was developed in a laboratory chamber, in which, atoms attached to the material and formed layers, growing over time. Eventually, this process engendered the formation of the superlattice, something which the research team a Stony Brook did not expect. 


The Basis of the Research

The crux of the research was focused on something called Quantum Anomalous Hall Effect (QAHE). This is hailed as one of the most exciting and transformative discoveries to have been made in condensed-matter physics. The QH was discovered by Klaus von Klitzing who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1985. The QH is where a bunch of electrons is restricted in movement to a two-dimensional plane in the presence of a strong magnetic field.  The QAHE is essentially the quantum Hall (QH) effect without an external magnetic field. The gravity of QAHE was finally realized in 2006 with the discovery of and experimentation with topological insulators (TIs).

TIs are based on the QAHE. In these insulators, electricity is only conducted along their edges. Electrons are conducted along one-way edge paths but do not scatter, which would otherwise cause dissipation and heat as in other materials. The QAHE current does not lose energy as it travels and can be compared to a superconducting current. Its further development and potential industrialization would provide the power electronics community with more efficient technologies.


Assistant Professor Jennifer Cano. Image used courtesy of Stony Brook University 
Assistant Professor Jennifer Cano. Image used courtesy of Stony Brook University 


"The main advance of this work is a higher temperature QAHE in a superlattice, and we show that this superlattice is highly tunable through electron irradiation and thermal vacancy distribution, thus presenting a tunable and more robust platform for the QAHE," said Cano in a recent news release. 

The QAHE along with the newly devised superlattice material developed by Cano and colleagues will enable a new generation of ultra-low energy electronics and serve as a foundation stone for the functioning of emerging quantum materials.