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Research Fellows Directory

Philip King

Dr Philip King

Research Fellow


University of St Andrews

Research summary

Topology, a branch of mathematics based on connections rather than distances, doesn’t seem like it would have much relation to real-world electronic materials. Nonetheless, recent theoretical work has uncovered an entirely new form of electrical insulator, dubbed a “topological insulator”, whose properties are governed by just this mathematical formalism. The implications of this are only just emerging, but the results are very exciting. Already these materials have been predicted to host many long-sought fundamental phenomena first brought to prominence in particle physics theory, but are also proposed to enable a range of new technologies including electronic devices that are far more energy efficient than state of the art schemes today. In my research, I utilize a sophisticated experimental probe based on the photoelectric effect to shed new light on the ingredients necessary to stabilize this exotic new class of materials, and to uncover the role topology plays on the organization and propagation of their constituent electrons, a key step towards their eventual implementation in device applications. In particular, I am studying the fundamental nature of so-called spin-orbit interactions in solids. This relativistic effect which describes a coupling between the motion of an electron and its tiny magnetic moment known as its spin, is known to be key to stabilising the vast majority of topological insulators known to date. We are investigating its influence on the electronic structure of solids and the potential that this and other schemes bring for engineering topologically protected states in new quantum materials.

Grants awarded

Electronic structure engineering of novel topological phases

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Dates: Oct 2013 - Sep 2018

Value: £459,566.77