New topology database 'could help improve electronics'

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Scientists have created a database of topological materials, in a move that could improve the performance and resilience of electronics.

Topological materials are materials whose shape means they can be manipulated or deformed without losing certain core properties – a donut is an example since no matter what is done to it, it will always retain its hole.

This property of topology is useful in the development of electronics and in recent years scientists have been searching for more topological materials with the aim of building better, stronger electronic devices.

Only a handful of such materials had been identified until an international research team led by Nicolas Regnault of Princeton University, MIT and the École Normale Supérieure in Paris conducted a large-scale survey.

The team used multiple supercomputers to map the electronic structure of more than 96,000 natural and synthetic crystalline materials.

The researchers found that 90 percent of all known crystalline structures contain at least one topological property, and more than 50 percent of all naturally occurring materials exhibit some sort of topological behavior.

“We found there’s a ubiquity — topology is everywhere,” says Benjamin Wieder, the study’s co-lead, and a postdoc in MIT’s Department of Physics.

The research team’s findings have now been compiled in to a Topological Materials Database, which is freely available online. Scientists can use the database to search for materials with topological properties in order to build ultra-low-power transistors, new magnetic memory storage, and other devices with robust electronic properties.