New Kinds of Topological Insulators Predicted
There are a number of materials that may greatly affect the future of electronics, and topological insulators may be the most intriguing. These materials have the unique property of conducting electrons only on their surface and not through their volume. The exact mechanics of what happens in and on a topological insulator are not very well understood, but researchers at MIT may have changed that.
Because of the very different behavior of electrons inside of and on the surface of topological insulators, many researchers have previously simplified models by considering assuming the electrons in the two regions do not interact. This is an understandable assumption as some of the behaviors seen for the surface electrons are only possible with two dimensional materials. Now though, the MIT researchers have constructed the analytical tools for modelling interactions between the two regions, and have come to some surprising conclusion. For one thing, some predictions for two-dimensional materials appear to be wrong, based on this work.
The researchers also identified that there should be six, and only six new kinds of topological insulators that require strong interactions between electrons in the two regions. Now the question is how might those materials be made, and then what could be their potential applications.