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1 million Euros for black holes made from semimetals

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Published on Wednesday, 03 March 2021

Semimetals are a class of materials which share features known from both metals and semiconductors. In recent years, it was found that the electrons flowing in certain novel – so-called “topological” – semimetals have properties known from particles in high-energy physics. A new research cooperation between the University of Luxembourg and the Technische Universität (TU) Dresden aims to explore the potential of topological semimetals.

Prof. Thomas Schmidt and postdoctoral researcher Dr Eddwi Hesky Hasdeo from the University of Luxembourg and their partner Dr Tobias Meng from the TU Dresden have launched the three-year research project TOPREL, connecting the physics of topological semimetals to the theory of general relativity, which governs for instance objects like black holes. One of the central goals is to control the flow of electrons in these materials precisely to enable the development of new types of quantum-enabled technologies.

In order to conduct electric currents along precisely defined paths, researchers often focus on the analysis of electronic transport properties. For the first time, specific theoretical foundations of different areas of physics will now be unified with the goal of unleashing the full potential of topological semimetals. The combination of relativity and quantum mechanics is a new approach which could enable a systematic manipulation of electrons in semimetals. More precisely, the researchers will build on the analog of the curvature of spacetime in black holes with the flow of electrons in interfaces of semimetals. The combination of these two thus far largely unconnected theories opens up entirely new opportunities in this research field.

“Relativistic semimetals are an important novel class of materials, sharing the common feature that electrons moving in them behave like particles in the theory of relativity. This makes it possible to study relativistic effects, which normally require large energies, in much simpler lab experiments. The project will result in a more realistic modelling of such materials, help us understand their electronic properties in different temperature regimes, and will ultimately bring their interesting electronic properties closer to applications in nanoelectronics,” explains Prof. Thomas Schmidt.

The project is funded by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) and its German partner organisation Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) with 950,000 Euros. 

© Image: pixelwg/Jörg Bandmann