Scientists from Boston have made what they describe as the “holy grail” of technology discovery’s that could change the future of tech devices.
In a paper published in science journal, Nature, the group believes that the next generation of technologies could be ushered in after their research breakthrough.
Their findings concern the discovery of a ‘topological axion insulator’ – a state of quantum matter which was previously only seen as a theory, but has now been put into practice.
Physicist Dr Arun Bansil, who led a team of researchers at Northeastern University, described the find as like “discovering a new element,” and that there will likely be “all sorts of interesting applications” for the technology.
Describing the research, Dr Bansil explained that the state was realized by combining certain metals and observing their magnetoelectric response.
In this case, Dr Bansil said they used a solid-state chip to measure the resulting electric and magnetic properties. The finding has the potential to impact a range of technologies, including batteries, computers, and memory storage.
“The topological axion insulator has a miraculous ability that allows it to have very robust metallic or conducting electrons on its surface, even though the bulk of the material is insulating,” Bansil commented.
“It had only been predicted theoretically – now it’s been realized experimentally.”
Goodbye to traditional batteries?
Dr Bansil said that the new technology discovery could prove to be more efficient than current battery tech that stores energy in the form of chemical energy.
Electronic devices called ‘spintronic devices’ could harness magnetic energy from special kinds of materials without the typical chemical reaction, making it a much more efficient “candidate material”.
Currently, spin batteries are still in the early stages of development, but scientists believe topological insulators could be the key to unlocking such technology.
Spintronic devices have been put forward as the way to solve a number of problems with today’s electronics, including issues of power consumption and operational speed in computers and other devices that rely on a charge, a vital characteristic as we look to deal with the effects of climate change.
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Dr Bansil continued: “There is no question the next generation of electronics will need to have low-power consumption.
“When you discover new materials like this, that opens up the possibilities. These newer kinds of materials can help usher in entirely new technologies.”
The discovery could have massive implications for the future of battery technology and subsequently for the adoption of electric vehicles.
Currently, batteries powering EVs run on the same chemical energy storage used in traditional battery tech. This has proven unsuitable for everyday car use as they require regular charging, which can take many hours to complete.
This current lack of fast charging has made it difficult for mass EV adoption, and the UK has been warned that to reach its future net-zero goal, it must adopt an effective battery technology strategy.
However, Dr Bansil believes that this new discovery could pave the way for new forms of battery storage, potentially revolutionising EV charging in the future.