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Physicists Find Solid-State 'Triple Point' In Material That Conducts, Insulates 35

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-slices-it-dices-it-makes-julienne-fries dept.
vinces99 writes "It is well known to scientists that the three common phases of water – ice, liquid and vapor – can exist stably together only at a particular temperature and pressure, called the triple point. Also well known is that the solid form of many materials can have numerous phases, but it is difficult to pinpoint the temperature and pressure for the points at which three solid phases can coexist stably. Physicists now have made the first-ever accurate determination of a solid-state triple point in a substance called vanadium dioxide, which is known for switching rapidly – in as little as one 10-trillionth of a second – from an electrical insulator to a conductor, and thus could be useful in various technologies. 'These solid-state triple points are fiendishly difficult to study, essentially because the different shapes of the solid phases makes it hard for them to match up happily at their interfaces,' said David Cobden, a University of Washington physics professor who is lead author of a paper about the research published in Nature. 'There are, in theory, many triple points hidden inside a solid, but they are very rarely probed.'"
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Physicists Find Solid-State 'Triple Point' In Material That Conducts, Insulates

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  • by localman57 (1340533) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @04:29PM (#44635593)
    Professor Cobden:

    These solid-state triple points are fiendishly difficult to study, essentially because the different shapes of the solid phases makes it hard for them to match up happily at their interfaces

    Me:

    Oh, yeah. That's pretty cool. So...you..uh...see that new Pacific Rim movie? Those giant robots were pretty awesome, huh?

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      LOL, well moderated. The possibilities of what this research will lead to are certainly unimaginable to anybody, even the scientists working on it now.

      This is really some amazing stuff, imagine transistors using the properties they're researching?

      Stories like this and comments like yours (and comments that teach) are why I still come here.

      • by Khyber (864651)

        "This is really some amazing stuff, imagine transistors using the properties they're researching?"

        I could only assume they'd be very large given three states need to coexist simultaneously., and thus these are possibly inefficient, even if novel.

        • by Anonymous Coward
          The triple point are looks like it is on the order of 100-200 nm square. Their technique would be able to make something on the order of a couple 20 nm square or smaller, although it would not have worked with their optical based measurement scheme to observe the different phases. The full apparatus was much larger (~ 1 mm square), although it was such to mechanically strain the nanowires very precisely so they could explore the phase diagram. In principle the actual interaction area could be very small,
  • Too tired to think

  • Trouble (Score:5, Funny)

    by Russ1642 (1087959) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @04:59PM (#44635827)

    We all know about the trouble with triples

  • So um... when will my terahertz computer be available?

  • they are very rarely probed.

    Sounds like my ex. Hiyo!

  • First time since college, I feel highly interested and thrilled again from
    something having to do with 'chemistry' (sorry folks).
    (My chem. teacher hated my guts, it was undeserved, and he forever
    doused the flame I had).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @06:39PM (#44636841)

    as little as one 10-trillionth of a second – from an electrical insulator to a conductor...

    Not as fast as a woman can change her mind, though...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why are they only discussing a biphasic change?? Conducting vs Insulating is only ONE change. If they are talking about a triple point, shouldn't they discuss more than one property change? Or are the three Vanadium dioxide phases all insulating (or conducting) and that switches at the triple point? I'm just a chemist...who has spent 3 years looking at phase changes in solids....please, someone show me what I am not seeing here.

    • by khallow (566160)
      From the article,

      In 1959, researchers at Bell Laboratories discovered vanadium dioxideâ(TM)s ability to rearrange electrons and shift from an insulator to a conductor, called a metal-insulator transition. Twenty years later it was discovered that there are two slightly different insulating phases.

      The new research shows that those two insulating phases and the conducting phase in solid vanadium dioxide can coexist stably at 65 degrees Celsius, give or take a tenth of a degree (65 degrees C is equal to 149 degrees Fahrenheit).

      So three phases and two parameters which vary are temperature and stress on a wire of the material.

    • Conducting and insulating are not phases of matter. What you are not seeing here is a quality education.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You're nearly 100 years behind the times here. Conducting and insulating states can easily be phases of matter, and are frequently referred to as such in various systems. There are some heavily studied systems that display transitions from insulating to conducting phases. In more extreme cases there is a lot of work on things like superconductor phase transitions, Mott insulator transitions, superinsulator phase transitions, etc. It would seem near impossible to have any exposure to condensed matter phy

  • by wbr1 (2538558)

    'There are, in theory, many triple points hidden inside a solid, but they are very rarely probed.'"

    "There are, in theory, many g-points hidden inside my girlfriend, but they are very rarely probed."

Man must shape his tools lest they shape him. -- Arthur R. Miller

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