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Quest to advance towards next generation of computing takes quantum leap

The quest to understand a variety of intriguing phenomena that may advance progress towards the next generation of computing has taken a quantum leap.

Through the science of metamaterials, quantum physics and the mathematics of topology, a team of scientists, including researchers from University of Exeter, have been exploring the properties of so called ‘ideal’ Weyl systems. 

They have constructed an artificial analogue to a conventional material that has been carefully tuned to support ‘massless’ particles at microwave frequencies.

The particles exist in materials that have a singularity in their electromagnetic properties, similar to a 3-dimensional graphene, called the Weyl point.

In recent years, scientists have tried to create an ideal system, where these Weyl points can exist at the same energy.

The ideal nature of the new design, supporting massless particles, makes them candidates for practical applications in electronics, optoelectronics and, perhaps, quantum computing.

The research is published in leading journal, Science, and is highlighted as a prestigious ‘First Release’ article.

Lauren Barr, a postgraduate researcher from Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences and co-author of the research explained: “The key feature that makes our Weyl metamaterial different to others is the broad frequency range around which we can examine its topological nature - this is what makes it 'ideal'.

“That means we can more easily explore new ways of controlling waves in a Weyl semi-metal, potentially leading to breakthrough advances in technology for faster and lower-power consumer-electronic devices.”

Professor Alastair Hibbins, Director of Exeter’s EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Metamaterials said: “We extremely pleased to have been involved in such a fantastic collaboration. Exeter provided the state-of-the art experimental kit to undertake the microwave work, but thanks to Prof Shuang Zhang and his team at the University of Birmingham for leading the project so well. 

“It’s been great to see our young researchers engaging in such high-quality science and I’m sure that they will reap the rewards of this result for many years to come.”

Ideal Weyl points and helicoid surface states in artificial photonic crystal structures is published in Science.

 Exeter’s EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Metamaterials hosts nearly 70 PhD researchers across a wide range of materials related research topics.

Date: 26 January 2018

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