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45-Year Physics Mystery Shows a Path To Quantum Transistors 56

New submitter cyberspittle sends this research report from the University of Michigan: An odd, iridescent material that's puzzled physicists for decades turns out to be an exotic state of matter that could open a new path to quantum computers and other next-generation electronics. ... The researchers provide the first direct evidence that samarium hexaboride, abbreviated SmB6, is a topological insulator (abstract). Topological insulators are, to physicists, an exciting class of solids that conduct electricity like a metal across their surface, but block the flow of current like rubber through their interior. They behave in this two-faced way despite that their chemical composition is the same throughout. ... This deeper understanding of samarium hexaboride raises the possibility that engineers might one day route the flow of electric current in quantum computers like they do on silicon in conventional electronics.
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45-Year Physics Mystery Shows a Path To Quantum Transistors

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  • Fluff piece (Score:5, Informative)

    by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @06:12AM (#48541673) Homepage Journal

    The summary and the article itself are so fluffy and short that they don't give any useful information about how this material relates to quantum computing, nor why it's properties are significant. There is mention of a class of electrons involved, but not how nor why this particular type of electron is relevant to quantum computing.

    It sounds interesting and all, but it would have been nice to have enough information to give one something to think about instead of just having to assume that the high faluting professors know their shit and must be right. :P

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It is short on explanations, but one of the natures of Quantum Mechanics effects is that it happens most often on the micro scale (things like single atoms). So if this material if it insulates/isolates a 1 molecule thick surface it "might" have some use (taking it a step closer) in creating the very small circuits that can show some kind of Quantum properties.

      Of course 3 Degree Kelvin is really cold, so dont expect it in the desktop size anytime soon

      • I don't have mod points now, so someone please give post points. As to the fluff piece accusation, I think you are being too tough. The piece provides a nice hook and some good info for anyone wanting to follow up. It is simply untrue to say there is no useful info in it.

    • Re:Fluff piece (Score:4, Informative)

      by teridon ( 139550 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @11:30AM (#48542323) Homepage

      There's a bit more information about why "Dirac electrons" (electrons behaving relativistically instead of classically) are important for quantum computing here: []

  • by cruff ( 171569 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @09:22AM (#48541963) Homepage
    Interestingly this article, also from U Mich, talks about observing Dirac electrons: []
  • SmB6 - is that really Samba v.6? :-)

    (Hey, someone was going to post this.)

  • To draw a quote from myself, re nanotubes...

    Every time I hear about (snip) quantum computing (snip), they keep saying "soon soon soon"... Well, what I want to know is when this stuff will leave the research labs and be of any practical use to anyone. Either shit or get off the pot already.

    • Well, it's at "super cold temperatures", so probably not in your lifetime. Also, according to the article, it's "...made of the metal samarium and the rare metalloid boron." So apparently there are heaps of Samarium about, but this boron, well, maybe we can mine asteriods for it, I dunno.

Bell Labs Unix -- Reach out and grep someone.