Three-Dimensional “Topological” Medium For Electromagnetic Waves, Developed By Scientists


The so-called “topological insulators” are exotic states of matter, and the physicists have been intensely studying them throughout the past ten years. Now, scientists developed a three-dimensional “topological” medium for electromagnetic waves.

Researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, and Zhejiang University, China, announced the production of the world’s first three-dimensional (3-D) photonic topological insulator in a study report issued in the journal Nature.

“Previous researchers were able to make two-dimensional photonic topological insulators. But in spite of many theoretical proposals over the years, nobody had been able to realize a 3-D version,” explained Associate Professor Baile Zhang of NTU. He added that “3-D topological insulators have important capabilities, including the ability to channel topological surface states along with all possible spatial directions,” as reported by

Three-Dimensional “Topological” Medium For Electromagnetic Waves, Developed By Scientists

“Since the sheets are made using well-established technology for printing circuit boards, this design is cheap and simple to implement. By comparison, other proposals previously published in the scientific literature involved using non-standard ceramic or magnetic materials, which are very difficult to work with if you want to make a real device,” said Professor Hongsheng Chen of Zhejiang University.

“By carefully inserting an electromagnetic field probe into the sample, we measured the field distributions throughout the sample. That allowed us to reconstruct the ‘dispersion relations’ that serve as the physical signatures of topological insulators,” added Dr. Yihao Yang, a postdoctoral researcher at NTU.

“This [three-dimensional ‘topological’ medium for electromagnetic waves] is an example of the universality of physics. A phenomenon is arising in one setting, like quantum materials, can be reproduced in another setting, in this case, an artificial medium for electromagnetic waves. The key ingredient is that they obey the same equations and theoretical concepts” also explained Associate Professor Yidong Chong.

The achievement is paving new ways of creating optical computer chips, lasers, and all sorts of interesting optical devices.

Vadim Ioan Caraiman

With over seven years of experience in online journalism, Vadim is passionate about everything related to science and the environment. For us, he will thus cover climate, environment, and science news, among others.


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