Saturday, July 18, 2009

Topological Insulators

Edge-State Physics Without Magnetic Fields in Science.
Solids can be divided into conductors and insulators. A new class of materials, called topological insulators, has been predicted (1, 2) that exhibit surface states that lead to quantized conductance of charge and spin. These surface states are helical edge states, which interconnect spin and momentum of the carriers. Observation of these states should not require application of a magnetic field.

Here's a potential application: Topological Quantum Image Analysis physics preprint.
A new approach to analyzing visual images is proposed, based on the idea of converting an optical image into a spatially varying pattern of polarized squeezed light, which is then used to produce a pattern of chiral edge currents in a thin film topological insulator. Thin films of Bi or Bi doped with Sb which are punctured with an array of sub-micron holes may be a way of realizing this kind of optical quantum information processing.

For a good introduction see A New Spin on the Insulating State in Science.

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