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Theoretical Research into Weyl-Dirac Semimetals May Lead to Novel Quantum Devices
Anton Burkov is a professor in the department pursuing research in the field of Topological Quantum Materials. These are materials in which topology and quantum mechanics join forces to produce the most unusual observable properties. For example, Topological Insulators are only insulating inside, but host a metal on their surface.
Topological Metals, the subject that Prof. Burkov is currently studying, are even more unusual: they host analogs of “magnetic monopoles”, but in momentum rather than real space. These monopoles always occur in dipole-like pairs of opposite “charge.” They manifest in numerous observable phenomena, such as large negative magnetoresistance, giant transverse magnetoresistance, Fermi arcs, and so on, some of which were predicted by Prof. Burkov.
These phenomena represent a new class of macroscopic quantum effects. These effects arise due to the complex topology of the momentum-space monopoles. An alternative view of the momentum-space monopoles is that they represent massless chiral (Weyl) fermions, which are the building blocks of the Standard Model of particle physics. This leads to a number of beautiful analogies between the physics of Topological Metals and the physics of relativistic elementary particles.
In Burkov’s most recent paper “Mirror Anomaly in Dirac Semimetals”, he predicted an effect, which is closely analogous to a transition from our space-time to “anti-space-time.” In other words, chiralities of all Weyl fermions are reversed. The effect he predicted is not just fundamentally interesting, but may be utilized in future quantum devices.