A new electronic attribute at the periphery between quantum and thermal science has been discovered by scientists in a specially developed metal alloy of bismuth and antimony which could prove to be a promising material for future devices that could turn the heat on or off with the simple application of a magnetic “switch”. In this material, electrons propel as a massless photon or light which is contrary to its behavior of possessing mass in vacuum and most of the other matter. According to the scientists, this unexpected nature is a theoretically predicted phenomenon that exist there. They observed that under the influence of an external magnetic field, these strangely behaving electrons manipulate heat in such ways that has not been seen under normal conditions. On both hot and cold sides of the material, some of the electrons generate heat or energy while others absorb energy, effectively turning the material into an energy storehouse. This leads to an increase of a 300% in thermal conductivity of the material.
According to senior study author Joseph Heremans, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and a distinguished Ohio scholar in nanotechnology at Ohio State University ,Generation and absorption makes up the anomaly, . The heat disappears and reappears elsewhere like a teleportation. It occurs under very specific conditions only that are predicted by quantum theory. This property and its simple control with a magnet could make the material a sought-after candidate as a heat switch without any moving parts, similar to a transistor switching electrical currents. It could be used to cool the computers or to increase the temperature efficiency of solar thermal power plants.
The bismuth-antimony alloy pertains to a group of quantum materials called Weyl semimetals whose electrons do not behave as expected. They are characterized by properties that include negatively and positively charged particles, electrons and holes that behave as “massless” particles. They are also part of a group called topological materials, whose electrons reacts as if the material contains internal magnetic fields that allow the establishment of new ways in which these particles could move. According to Nandini Trivedi, the study co-author and professor of physics at Ohio state, an anomaly in physics, that is, the generation and absorption of heat by electrons discovered in this study relates to certain symmetries that exist in the classical world but are broken in the quantum realm, said the study co-author, Nandini Trivedi. Bismuth alloys and other similar materials, like most metals, have a classic conductivity, with vibrating atoms in a crystal lattice and the movement of electrons transporting heat. Trivedi described the new way by which light-like electrons manipulate heat with one another as a highway that seems to appear out of nowhere.