A new discovery has dramatically increased the conductivity of a crystal, potentially leading to dramatic increases in computer chip performance.

LIGHT OF LIFE Conductivity in crystal dramatically increased

Researchers at Washington State University made an accidental discovery that increased the electrical conductivity of light 400 times. The accident involved simply exposing the crystal to light. The effect was maintained for several days after the light was turned off and the discovery may come to drastically change the performance of electronic components like computer chips.

WSU doctoral student Marianne Tarun made the discovery after she noticed that the conductivity of a sample of strontium titanate had increased significantly after having been left out in the open for a day. At first, she and the other researchers assumed the sample had become contaminated, but after extensive testing, they reached the conclusion that the effect came from exposure to light.

“It came by accident,” said Tarun. “It’s not something we expected. That makes it very exciting to share.” Many physicists are currently pursuing something called superconductivity, the complete lack of electrical resistance. Tarun’s discovery is a form of persistent photoconductivity, and is still a long way away from super conductivity, but it is much more practical than many of the other potential solutions: Most experiments in conductivity involve freezing the components to near absolute zero. Tarun’s discovery however, works at room temperature.
strontiumtit Conductivity in crystal dramatically increased
Structure of strontium titanate

“The discovery of this effect at room temperature opens up new possibilities for practical devices,” said Matthew McCluskey, co-author of the paper written on the discovery. “In standard computer memory, information is stored on the surface of a computer chip or hard drive. A device using persistent photoconductivity, however, could store information throughout the entire volume of a crystal.” MacCluskey suggests that the discovery could lead to massive increases in computer memory.

Source Phys.org