The discovery of quantum materials that assemble spontaneously could open a path towards previously impossible quantum devices.
In terms of the number of scientific publications, condensed matter physics is the most researched branch of physics. This shouldn’t come as a surprise when we know what scientists in this field deal with.
Condensed matter physics investigates properties of matter at the microscopic and macroscopic levels in its condensed phases. This mainly refers to when a large number of particles adhere to each other and strongly interact.
Liquids are a condensed phase, as are solids. However, there are many states where matter is condensed in a way that brings out a specific property.
All these materials, on the atomic scale, have properties used in several industries for various purposes.
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Often unexploited, these properties are usually only present at the microscopic level. Due to this, they are subject to the laws of quantum mechanics.
Self-Assembling Interfaces to Leverage the Exotic Properties of Quantum Materials
Quantum materials are materials whose unusual properties require involvement and constant interactions between large numbers of condensed particles.
In order to be able to tap into this quantum wealth, we need interfaces to observe quantum materials and make use of their amazing properties.
Now, an international research team has made a big step in that direction.
Scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory recently reported the discovery of self-assembling, functional quantum interfaces that promise a new age for electronic devices.
“This illustrates that if we can learn to control and exploit the remarkable properties at the interfaces of quantum materials,” said physicist Marc Janoschek, co-leader of the research, “this will likely result in a new generation of devices beyond our current imagination.”
At any point in time, there are countless interactions taking place between particles at the quantum level. All of these interactions are competing for the spotlight, which makes the control of quantum materials more challenging.
This need for control was the main goal of researchers who resorted to “neutron spectroscopy”.
Using neutron spectroscopy measurements, scientists were able to show that with some metals, the issue of quantum interaction competition can be solved by a “spontaneous state”. This state enables two properties to alternate without overshadowing each other.
The details of this discovery were described in a paper published in Nature Physics and arXiv. In addition to their ability to self-assemble spontaneously, these quantum interfaces can also be reconfigured using external parameters such as temperature and alternating its magnetic field.