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New Method Of Electronic Switching Discovered
December 4, 2018

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have made a material that can transition from an electricity-transmitting metal to a nonconducting insulating material without changing its atomic structure.

“This is quite an exciting discovery,” says Chang-Beom Eom, professor of materials science and engineering. “We’ve found a new method of electronic switching.”

According to information, the new material could lay the groundwork for ultrafast electronic devices, such as the cellphones and computers of the future. Prof. Eom and his international team of collaborators published details of their advance recently in the journal Science.

Metals like copper or silver conduct electricity, whereas insulators like rubber or glass do not allow current to flow. Some materials, however, can transition from insulating to conducting and back again.

This transition usually means that the arrangement of a material’s atoms and its conducting electrons must change in a coordinated way, but the atomic transition typically proceeds much more slowly than the smaller, lighter electrons that conduct electricity.

A material that can switch to conducting electricity like a metal without moving its atoms could dramatically advance switching speeds of advanced devices, says Prof. Eom.

In their research, Prof. Eom and his collaborators answered a fundamental question that has bothered scientists for years: Can the electronic and structural transition be decoupled – essentially, can the quickly changing electrons break out on their own and leave the atoms behind?

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