New evidence suggests that they can host electrons moving like slowed down light and their collective behavior mimics magnetic monopoles.
An international team of researchers has discovered that certain classes of crystals with an asymmetry like biological "handedness," known as chiral crystals, may harbor electrons that behave in unexpected ways.
"Before our work, quantum-level properties of electrons in chiral crystals were rarely studied," said M. Zahid Hasan, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics at Princeton University, who led the research.
It manifests in everyday objects such as gloves, shoes, screws and multi-level parking garages.
In 2016, Duncan Haldane, Princeton's Sherman Fairchild University Professor of Physics, won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his theories predicting the properties of topological materials.
In an October 2018 article, Hasan's team proposed a theory that bridged the gap between the physical chirality of crystals and how electrons behave in those crystals, both quantum mechanically and according to the mathematical laws of topology.