Now another innovation stands to revolutionize the way we control the flow of electrons through a circuit: vanadium dioxide (VO2).
A key characteristic of this compound is that it behaves as an insulator at room temperature but as a conductor at temperatures above 68 C. This behavior - also known as metal-insulator transition - is being studied in an ambitious EU Horizon 2020 project called Phase-Change Switch.
EPFL was chosen to coordinate the project following a challenging selection process.
Due to the array of high-potential applications that could come out of this new technology, the project has attracted two major companies - Thales of France and the Swiss branch of IBM Research - as well as other universities, including Max-Planck-Gesellschaft in Germany and Cambridge University in the UK.
Gesellschaft für Angewandte Mikro- und Optoelektronik (AMO GmbH), a spin-off of Aachen University in Germany, is also taking part in the research.
Scientists have long known about the electronic properties of VO2 but haven't been able to explain them until know.