Everyone should be familiar with the phases, solid, liquid, and gas, but not everyone may be familiar with other phases certain materials have. For example, vanadium dioxide (VO2) also has conducting and insulating phases, and has the unique ability to switch between them very quickly. Like the solid, liquid, and gas phases of all materials, the electrical phases of VO2 can coexist, and finally researchers at the University of Washington have determined under what conditions this is possible.
What phase a material is in typically depends on the temperature and pressure it is under. Along the line separating any two phases, the two phases can coexist, and at the point where all three lines connect, the triple point, all three phases can coexist. To find the triple point of VO2, the researchers had to devise a special apparatus to stretch the wires made of the material under a microscope. As it turns out, the triple force appeared when there was no force being applied to the wires.
Armed with this knowledge, researchers will be able to better understand VO2 different electrical phases, and potentially apply them to new technologies. Also we may find this technique used to make discoveries concerning other materials.
Source: University of Washington