A team of quantum physicists discovered a new state of matter in a two-dimensional material. They called it "quantum spin liquid," a state that was predicted approximately 40 years ago but remained unobserved.
Today, researchers finally have a direct evidence. Researchers believe that findings can help improve quantum computing power.
This new state of matter is categorized by broken electrons or fragments called "Majorana fermions" or "fermions." Quantum physicists from the University of Cambridge discovered these electron fragments while studying the behavior of particles inside a two-dimensional material similar to graphene.
The researchers' observations on the new discovery matched the ones on the quantum spin liquid theoretical models in past studies. This new state of matter provides explanations on the irregularities found in magnetic materials.
The electrons inside a magnetic material act like tiny bar magnets. They line up towards the magnetic north and point to the same direction when the material is cooled, creating distinct and sharp lines. In materials with the new state of matter, researchers wondered what the electron particles would look like.
In magnetic materials with quantum spin liquid, these electrons don't align. Rather, they form what can be described as an "entangled soup" due to the quantum oscillations. Instead of the distinct and sharp lines, they create wide lumps.
Mysterious quantum spin liquids were believed to be hidden in specific magnetic materials. They have not been observed in nature, but the recent discovery offered the first real evidence of its existence.
"It's an important step for our understanding of quantum matter. It's fun to have another new quantum state that we've never seen before – it presents us with new possibilities to try new things," said Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory physicist Dmitry Kovrizhin.
In 2014, a researcher Johannes Knolle, who was also from Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory, created a theoretical model for the electron fractionalization signature. The new research offers a direct evidence of the Knolle's model in 2014.
"This is a new addition to a short list of known quantum states of matter," added Knolle.
The research was published in the Nature Materials journal on April 4.