University of California, Riverside

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

NSF Funds Topological Insulator Research of R. Lake and A. Balandin for Novel Device Applications

NSF Funds Topological Insulator Research of R. Lake and A. Balandin for Novel....

Prof Lake & Prof BalandinThe newest class of materials that have captured the attention of physicists and electrical engineers are topological insulators. Examples include Bi2Te3 and Bi2Se3. While these materials have been studied in bulk for decades, it was recently discovered that the electrons on their surfaces had very special properties. Topological insulators constitute a new class of quantum materials with bulk insulating energy gaps and gapless Dirac-cone edge or surface states. The electrons on the surfaces have many similarities to electrons in graphene, another material of intense interest. However, the electrons on the surfaces of topological insulators have even more special and peculiar properties. The surface states are protected against time-reversal-invariant perturbations such as non-magnetic impurities, defects, and reconstruction. Furthermore, each momentum state on a given surface is coupled to one unique spin state. Since the surface states are topologically protected, and the momentum states are coupled to spin states, scattering is reduced and noise is suppressed. In thin topological insulators, a Rashba-type spin splitting occurs which can be controlled by a gate voltage. The thermoelectric figure of merit, ZT, increases as film thickness is reduced. Thus, topological insulators have shown exceptional properties for thermoelectric, charge, and spin transport. These materials and properties will be investigated from an engineering electronics point of view. Devices that exploit these properties will be built, modeled and characterized, and the performance metrics and fundamental limits of such devices will be determined. Transformative concepts include the use of low-dissipation, low noise topologically protected states of topological insulators for electronic / spintronic devices and low-noise, low-power interconnects. The successful project has the potential to lead to new technologies that exploit the low-dissipation, low-noise states of topological insulators for computation, communications, and sensors.

This three-year grant 'Coupled Charge and Spin Transport in Topological Insulators' is funded at $360K, and the work will be simultaneously carried out both theoretically in the Laboratory for Terahertz and Terascale Electronics (LATTE) of PI R. Lake and experimentally in the Nano Device Laboratory (NDL) of co-PI A. Balandin.

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