Scientists discover energy-efficient computer chips in 1.58 dimensions

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Imagine computer chips that don’t lose any energy while working.

Scientists are getting closer to making this a reality by using special materials called topological insulators.

These materials are known to exist in one, two, and three dimensions and are useful in various electronic devices.

Recently, physicists from Utrecht University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University discovered that topological insulators might also exist in a unique state called 1.58 dimensions. This new state could be key to creating energy-efficient computer chips.

Their findings were published in the journal Nature Physics.

Computers use bits, the basic units of information, which operate on electric currents. When electrons flow, it represents a “1,” and when they don’t, it represents a “0.”

All the devices you use daily, from smartphones to laptops, work on this principle. However, as electrons move, they hit defects and impurities, causing energy loss and heat. This is why your device gets warm and the battery drains quickly.

Topological insulators are unique because they can conduct electricity without losing energy. Discovered in 1980, this new state of matter has an insulating interior but conducts electricity along its edges. This property is ideal for quantum technologies, which could significantly reduce global energy consumption. The challenge has been that these materials only worked under extreme conditions, like very low temperatures and strong magnetic fields.

In 2017, scientists made a breakthrough by discovering that a single-atom-thick layer of bismuth could work as a topological insulator at room temperature without needing a magnetic field. This advancement brought the practical use of topological insulators in everyday electronics closer to reality.

Exploring 1.58 Dimensions

Now, researchers have found that topological insulators might also exist in fractional dimensions, like 1.58 dimensions. This concept might sound strange, but it’s more familiar than you think. Structures in 1.58 dimensions are similar to fractals, which are self-similar patterns. Examples of fractals include the branching of your lungs, neuron networks in your brain, and Romanesco broccoli.

By growing bismuth on indium antimonide, scientists in China created fractal structures. Theoretical physicists in Utrecht showed that these fractals had special properties: they formed zero-dimensional modes and lossless one-dimensional edge states. This means they could be used to create efficient qubits, the building blocks of quantum computers.

The discovery was driven by intuition. When Cristiane Morais Smith from Utrecht University saw the structures produced in Shanghai, she felt they had the right properties. After discussing with her students, they confirmed the novel features of these fractals.

The next step is to grow a superconductor on top of these fractal structures, which could further improve energy-efficient information processing. These structures combine the best of one-dimensional and two-dimensional properties and might reveal more secrets at dimension 1.58.

This groundbreaking research shows the potential of exploring uncharted dimensions and opens new paths to more efficient and powerful technology.

Source: KSR.