SNAPSHOT: This Element’s Weird Behavior Could Lead to Faster Electronics

By Alison Mackey | August 22, 2018 6:41 pm
(Credit: Ali Yazdani Laboratory, Princeton University)

(Credit: Ali Yazdani Laboratory, Princeton University)

You’ve never seen bismuth like this before.

Element 83 on the periodic table, bismuth is a hard, pinkish-white metal that can grow in stunning geometric crystals.

Recently, researchers have been taking a closer look at bismuth, down to the atomic level. Shown here is a simulation of orbiting bismuth surface electrons in a very strong magnetic field.

Note how the electrons are all gathered in clumps inside each potential orbit. Scientists refer to this as an energy valley.

The Princeton-led study, published in Nature Physics this month, used a technique called scanning tunneling microscopy to show that bismuth electrons prefer to crowd into a single valley, creating a type of electricity called ferroelectricity. Scientists call it “emergent behavior.”

We’re reaching the physical limits of packing transistors into increasingly tiny spaces, but insights into this growing field of “valleytronics” could lead to new materials that will ensure ever more powerful processors are available to quench our insatiable thirst for better, faster technology.

And, in fact, the study shows bismuth seems to have six specific valleys. This means it may be possible to distribute information in six different states via the presence or lack of an election.

“The idea that you can have behavior that emerges because of interactions between electrons is something that is very fundamental in physics,” study author and Princeton University graduate student Mallika Randeria said in a media release.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Uncategorized
  • Uncle Al

    The study was performed at 10.5 – 14 teslas (Fig. 1d), A Halbach array of permanent supermagnets as a dipole cylinder tops at 5.16 T, DOI:10.1109/TASC.2004.830555

    ensure ever more powerful processors are available to quench our insatiable thirst for better, faster technology” Thinner thighs in 30 days.

    • OWilson

      Happiness is a blazing broadband connection!

      Sign me up Scotty! :)

    • Chuckiechan

      The Chinese thank you.

  • jonathanpulliam

    Bismuth, of Rohs-compliant “lead-free solder” fame is slightly radioactive, though stingy with its alpha particles. A sample would only be about half as radioactive after the elapse of some ten billion years, in consolation.

    Bismuth is produced as a by-product of lead refining, and the smelting of tungsten and copper as well, and because of the way it is used, it’s recycling is problematic. Increased demand for Bismuth would portend severe challenges to the biosphere owing to the losses into the environment during mining, transport and smelting of lead ores.


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