Physics breakthrough to improve energy efficiency

energy efficiency
Qiaoliang Bao

A global research project led by Monash University has contributed to a breakthrough discovery in quantum physics, which can deliver new electronics and communications technology with ultra-low energy consumption.

Associate professor Qiaoliang Bao from Monash University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, along with researchers from Soochow University (China), Universidad de Oviedo and CIC nanoGUNE (Spain), have for the first time observed a difference in the physical and mechanical properties of polaritons moving along the surface of a van der Waals (vdW) material.

Published today in one of the world’s leading science journals Nature, this discovery has the potential to deliver energy efficiency in information and communications technology – such as mobile phones and computers – which are currently responsible for up to eight per cent of global electricity use and doubling each decade.

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Polaritons are a ‘hybrid’ particle that can trap and manipulate light within micrometre-scale structures. Typically short-lived, with lifetimes measured in trillionths of a second, polaritons when combined with layers of atoms can exert enough force to power a quantum computer.

“While such an effect has been predicted previously, this is the first time anyone has observed this ‘anisotropic’ movement of polaritons,” Associate professor Bao said.

“Polaritons usually move isotropically – or in a uniform direction – which causes a wasted dissipation of energy.

“The results are not only exciting from the aspect of improving our knowledge of fundamental physics, but could also lead to new developments in thermal heat management and quantum optics.”

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The research was conducted through FLEET (The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Future Low-Energy Electronics Technology) – a collaboration of more than 100 researchers at seven Australian universities and 13 Australian and international science organisations.

Bringing together the world’s leading minds in engineering and physics, FLEET is driving innovation in topological materials and atomically-thin, ‘two-dimensional’ (2D) materials to create ultra-low energy electronics that achieve zero, or near-zero, wasted dissipation of energy.

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