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India: Advanced Materials for Digital and Quantum Tech

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In a groundbreaking study, scientists have unravelled the electronic mechanisms governing a new class of materials called incipient metals with metavalent bonding (MVB) within a single 2D layer of Group IV chalcogenides. This discovery has significant implications for the quantum technology, IT, and digital sectors, highlighting the potential of these materials to revolutionise current technologies.

Image credits: Press Information Bureau

The implications of this research are vast. Chalcogenides explored in this study are already used in computer flash memories, leveraging their ability to change optical properties during phase transitions. Additionally, their potential use in energy storage, particularly as phase change materials, opens new avenues for more sustainable and efficient energy solutions.

This research represents a significant leap forward in understanding the chemistry of quantum materials. As Prof. Waghmare emphasises, “Normal chemical bonding doesn’t explain the unique nature of these materials. We’ve uncovered the chemistry of quantum materials that opens new avenues for exploration.”

The research connects with the emerging field of quantum materials, aligning with India’s national mission on quantum technology. These materials, with their distinct electronic structures and properties, offer a prototypical example of quantum topological materials, essential for advancing quantum technologies.

By leveraging their unique properties, these materials could drive innovation in quantum computing, secure communications, and advanced sensor technologies, positioning India as a leader in the global quantum technology landscape.

In the IT and digital sectors, the high electrical conductivity and efficient energy conversion properties of Group IV chalcogenides can lead to the development of faster, more energy-efficient memory storage solutions. These materials are already employed in computer flash memories, utilising their ability to change optical properties during phase transitions. Their integration could enhance data storage technologies, making them more reliable and sustainable.

Group IV chalcogenides, compounds containing an element from group VI combined with an element from groups III-V of the periodic table (such as PbTe, SnTe, and GeTe), exhibit unique properties that make them suitable for various technological applications. These materials can transition reversibly between amorphous and crystalline phases in response to changes in temperature, pressure, or electrical fields. This characteristic is valuable in applications like rewritable optical discs and electronic memory devices, where contrasting optical responses are crucial.

One of the most exciting aspects of Group IV chalcogenides is their high electrical conductivity and the ability to convert thermal energy into electrical energy through the thermoelectric effect. This makes them prime candidates for energy harvesting and power generation applications.

The recent study, conducted by Professor Umesh Waghmare from the Theoretical Sciences Unit at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bengaluru, explores the possibility of introducing metavalent bonding within a single 2D layer of Group IV chalcogenides. Published in the Angewandte Chemie International Edition, the study provides a first-principle theoretical analysis of the bonding nature within five different 2D lattices of these chalcogenides.

The research delves into the electronic mechanisms governing the chemical bonding in these materials, challenging conventional ideas. Professor Waghmare explains, “These materials, termed incipient metals, exhibit a combination of properties that defy conventional understanding. They possess electrical conductivity akin to metals, high thermoelectric efficiency characteristic of semiconductors, and unusually low thermal conductivity.”

The elucidation of metavalent bonding, a concept proposed by Matthias Wuttig in 2018, offers a fresh perspective on the behaviour of these materials. This innovative bonding concept combines features of both metallic and covalent bonding, enhancing the understanding of these materials’ unique properties.

By revealing the mechanisms behind metavalent bonding and its impact on material properties, this study not only advances scientific knowledge but also paves the way for practical applications in energy harvesting, storage, and beyond. The continued exploration of these materials promises to drive innovation and sustainability in various technological fields, contributing to a future where advanced materials play a crucial role in addressing global challenges.

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