Within our lifetimes we may see the end of the electronic computers we know and love as new technologies are created to replace them. These technologies include spintronics and quantum computers, which can both rely on the spin state of electrons. Researchers at the University of York and University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee have recently been studying an important material for the development of these technologies: ultra-thin film topological insulators.
All electrons have a spin state, whether they are just providing power to a light bulb or carrying data in a spintronic system. Those electrons powering a light bulb though have their spin states constantly scattered by imperfections in the wiring, which is unacceptable within a spintronic or quantum computer. This is why researchers are looking at topological insulators, as they have special quantum properties to protect spin states. Now the researchers have confirmed that imperfections in ultra-thin film topological insulators do not scatter the spin states enough to destroy a signal.
Studying how defects within a topological insulator can affect a spintronic signal is very important as those defects would be changing the material's electronic properties. This is similar to how dopants can be sued to change the properties of semiconductors used in modern computers.
Source: University of York