New semimetal could support quest for energy efficient electronic devices

Scientists at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities have fabricated a thin film of a new topological semimetal that could have a significant application in electronics. 

In a collaborative effort, research teams led by Professors Jian-Ping Wang, Tony Low, and Andre Mkhoyan have successfully fabricated a thin film using a new generation of materials that have demonstrated lower resistivity and a larger charge to spin ratio. The team’s findings indicate that the new  material could be used for the development of electronic devices that have greater computing power and memory storage while consuming far less energy compared to devices that use contemporary semiconductor materials. 

Details of the study are in a paper titled “Robust negative longitudinal magnetoresistance and spin-orbit torque in sputtered Pt3Sn topological semimetal” published in Nature Communications.   

Distinguished McKnight University Professor and Robert F. Hartmann Chair Jian-Ping Wang who is a senior author on the paper says, “This research shows for the first time that you can transition from a weak topological insulator to a topological semimetal using a magnetic doping strategy.” Addressing the impact of the study he adds, “We are looking for ways to extend the lifetimes for our electrical devices and at the same time lower the energy consumption, and we’re trying to do that in non-traditional, out-of-the-box ways.”

The study aligns with the CHIPS and Science Act passed by the federal government in 2022 supporting the expansion of semiconductor research and development, and manufacturing. 

Considering the increasing complexity of electronics (the demands on memory and computing power have grown exponentially) scientists have been actively seeking materials that can deliver greater power and memory while simultaneously consuming less energy. Topological semimetals are a step in this direction. An advancement within the topological insulator class of materials, the newly fabricated topological semimetal in the present study has features that promise to impact the semiconductor industry as well as open up new opportunities for fundamental research. The large charge to spin ratio of this particular semimetal will mean lower energy consumption, which is an area of active exploration in the semiconductor industry, while the chiral anomaly it presents opens up new research avenues. 

Referring to the opportunities for fundamental research presented by the high quality material the team have fabricated, senior author and Paul Palmberg Associate Professor Tony Low says, “One of the main contributions of our work from a physics point of view is that we were able to study some of this material’s most fundamental properties. Normally, when you apply a magnetic field, the longitudinal resistance of a material will increase, but in this particular topological material, we predicted that it would decrease. We corroborated our theory based on the measured transport data and confirmed that there is indeed a negative resistance.” 

The team fabricated the thin film format of this semimetal using an industry compatible sputtering process. This is particularly significant as the technology now has the potential to move from a laboratory environment to industry manufacturing for commercial level fabrication rather quickly .

Highlighting the impact of this work Professor Andre Mkhoyan, senior author of the paper and Ray D. and Mary T. Johnson Chair in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science says, “Every day in our lives, we use electronic devices, from our cell phones to dishwashers to microwaves. They all use chips. Everything consumes energy. The question is, how do we minimize that energy consumption? This research is a step in that direction.”


The other members on the research team were Delin Zhang, Wei Jiang, Onri Benally, Zach Cresswell, Yihong Fan, Yang Lv, and Przemyslaw Swatek (all from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering); Hwanhui Yun(Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science); Thomas Peterson (Department of Physics and Astronomy); and Guichuan Yu and Javier Barriocanal (University of Minnesota Characterization Facility).

This project is supported by SMART, one of seven centers of nCORE, a Semiconductor Research Corporation program, sponsored by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Thomas Peterson and Delin Zhang were partly supported by ASCENT, one of six centers of JUMP, a Semiconductor Research Corporation program that is sponsored by MARCO and DARPA. This work was partially supported by the UMN MRSEC program under award number DMR-2011401 (Seed). Parts of this work were carried out in the Characterization Facility of the University of Minnesota, which receives partial support from the NSF through the MRSEC (Award NumberDMR-2011401). Portions of this work were conducted in the Minnesota Nano Center, which is supported by the National Science Foundation Nano Coordinated Infrastructure Network (NNCI) under Award Number ECCS-2025124.