Week 8 & 9: Topological Insulators

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Monday, August 3, 2020


Billy "Trey" Cole

I decided to combine two blog postings into one this week because we didn't have a speaker in week 8 and there wasn't anything I would deem blog-worthy in that week. This past week we had a really interesting speaker, particularly for me because he spoke on topological insulators and their applications in modern computing. As an undergraduate, I spent a large portion of time trying to understand the role that topology plays in Physics, and naturally I have stumbled upon some of Dr. Fuhrer's talks online. So when we were told he was going to be a guest speaker, needless to say I was quite excited to hear what he had to say. He explained the story of how Landau's symmetry breaking theory was shown to be inadequate in describing all types of phase transitions of matter, and how the Quantum Hall effect exemplifies this inadequacy. Through some derivations of Landau levels, he showed us how this leads to quantized Hall resistance and the edge states that exist in the materials that exhibit this property. Something that interests me in the research that I have done is Majorana bound states and their application for information storage in quantum computers, a bit of a different route than Dr. Furher's. I was curious after his talk on topological insulators if these bound states could exist in environments other than topological superconductors? Disregarding the possibility they may actually be fundamental particles of nature, the neutrino being a candidate for being Majorana-like fermions. Even though Dr. Furher wasn't interested in the specific application of topological materials to quantum computation, it was still interesting to hear how him and the team at FLEET are planning to use them for more effecient transitors. 

Billy "Trey" Cole