Electron-Invisibility May Enable Advanced ElectronicsCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: October 16, 2012 02:13PM
Invisibility was largely in the domain of fantasy and fiction until researchers realized it should be possible to control the flow of photons such that they will travel around an object instead of reflecting off of it. Now researchers at MIT have extended that idea to electronics in computer models and it could greatly impact electronics and thermoelectric materials.
Instead of the electrons being diverted around the bulk of the material, like in an invisibility cloak, they actually pass right through it, first diverted in one direction, and then back, so the electrons continue on as though nothing happened. By carefully tuning the material, it is possible to filter out errant electron flows, which could be very useful for controlling electron transport within ever smaller computer chips. If the material could also turn the invisibility on and off, it could be made into a new kind of electronic switch too, but that remains to be seen.
The researchers first considered this possibility for its thermoelectric properties though. A good thermoelectric material has to be electrically conductive but a thermal insulator, so the heat differential is maintained. Typically electric and thermal conductivity come hand-in-hand, but a material that can be invisible to electrons may break that rule. Sadly this has all been done as computers models, but hopefully the material can be synthesized and ready for experiments soon.