The unknown conductive properties of bismuth

Until now it was thought that the electronic structure of bismuth was trivial, but researchers from the University of the Basque Country and other international centers have proven that this metal is a topological insulator. These materials have very special conductive properties, with potential application in electronic devices and quantum computing.

A study framed within the field of topological insulators, materials with special universal properties, which also involved scientists from the University of Zurich (Switzerland), Princeton University (USA), the Max Planck Institute of Physical Microstructures Halle (Germany), the Paris Sud University and the CNRS center (France).The authors have succeeded in demonstrating that the electronic structure of bismuth, an element that was believed to be topologically trivial, is, in fact, topological. “Our work establishes that bismuth is a superior topological insulator,” they conclude in the article.

Topological insulators are materials with very special electronic transport properties, which are protected against disturbances and deformations. These properties are described theoretically by topology, a branch of mathematics related to the properties of geometric objects that are not modified by continuous deformations.

Topological materials can be potentially important materials to design electronic devices of the future, for quantum computing or to develop new routes in catalysis.

In 2016, three researchers won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on topological materials. One of them, Duncan Haldane, has recently participated in a congress organized by the DIPC at the Miramar Palace in San Sebastián.

Frank Schindler, Zhijun Wang, Maia G. Vergniory, Ashley M. Cook, Anil Murani, Shamashis Sengupta, Alik Yu. Kasumov, Richard Deblock, Sangjun Jeon, Ilya Drozdov, Hélène Bouchiat, Sophie Guéron, Ali Yazdani, B. Andrei Bernevig & Titus Neupert. “Higher-order topology in bismuth”. Nature Physics volume 14, pages 918–924 (2018

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