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Feb 14, 2024

Breakthrough in Semiconductor Design: Topological Quantum Device Defies Electron Flow Interference

Semiconductor devices, crucial components in modern electronics, manage the flow of electrons in high-tech products like cell phones, laptops, and medical devices. Despite their importance, material impurities or temperature variations can disrupt electron flow, causing instability. However, a team of theoretical and experimental physicists from the Würzburg-Dresden Cluster of Excellence ct.qmat has developed a groundbreaking semiconductor device using aluminum-gallium-arsenide (AlGaAs), as detailed in the esteemed journal Nature Physics.

The device, boasting electron flow safeguarded by a topological quantum phenomenon, counters interference from impurities or external perturbations. Professor Jeroen van den Brink, director of the Institute for Theoretical Solid State Physics at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research in Dresden (IFW) and a principal investigator of ct.qmat, explains that the topological skin effect eliminates the need for extremely high material purity, potentially reducing the costs of electronics manufacturing.

This topological quantum device, measuring about 0.1 millimeters in diameter, demonstrates exceptional stability and precision. Van den Brink notes its suitability for power-intensive applications and touts it as a new option in sensor engineering. The device’s success lies in realizing the topological skin effect on a microscopic scale in a semiconductor material, a feat not previously achieved in a natural material.

The topological quantum device’s current-voltage relationship is protected by the topological skin effect, confining electrons to the edge. This ensures stable current flow even in the presence of impurities. Additionally, the device’s contacts can detect minute fluctuations in current or voltage, making it well-suited for high-precision sensors and amplifiers with minuscule diameters.

Creative material and contact arrangement on an AlGaAs semiconductor device, combined with ultra-cold conditions and a strong magnetic field, induced the topological effect. The breakthrough is a result of collaborative efforts between scientists in Würzburg and Dresden, part of the ct.qmat project investigating topological quantum materials. The researchers aim to explore this phenomenon further for potential technological innovations.

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