Few modern materials have risen to the fame of silicon, a fundamental element used in computer chips and the namesake of Silicon Valley, home to some of the world's largest technology companies.
However, the next generation of computers may not be as reliant on silicon. His latest discovery: a vanadium oxide bronze whose unusual electrical properties could increase the speed at which information is transferred and stored.
The reason these nanowires are so special is that they perform a weird trick: When exposed to an applied voltage at room temperature, the wires transform from insulators that resist carrying electricity to metals that conduct electricity with greater ease.
Each of these two states - insulating and metal - could represent a 0 or a 1 in the binary code that computers use to encode information, or the "on" and "off" states that machines use to perform calculations. "The ability that these nanomaterials have to switch electrically between states on and off over and over again at high speeds makes them useful for computing, ”said study co-author Sambandamurthy Ganapathy, associate professor of physics at UB.