A novel state of matter has been found in the context of a 2D object.
A group of experts has found an enigmatic new state of matter. This was predicted for the first time some 40 odd years ago. Termed quantum spin liquid, this state causes the electrons to disintegrate into little pieces.
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Electrons were thought to have been the limits of matter and it was supposed that they couldn’t be broken down any further into smaller pieces. Yet this has proven to be an illusion.
The scientists were from the University of Cambridge. They noted down the signatures of these sub-particles known as Majorana fermions. The context was a 2D material that was like graphene. The results matched with the models for a quantum spin liquid known as a Kitaev model.
This was reported in the journal Nature Materials.
Quantum spin liquids are deemed to exist in certain magnetic materials. Yet they had not been observed until now. However, now with electron splitting or fractionalization, the world of science may be onto something here. These Majorana fermions may be employed in the making of quantum computers.
These quantum computers could run far faster than the ordinary computers of today. In a magnet, eletrons behave like small bar magnets. When the matter is made to be cool enough, the electrons will line up so that they all point towards the magnetic north.
However, in a spin liquid state, even if the the material is cooled to absolute zero, the bar magnets would not form a single array but they would rather be in a soupy mixed state.
The fingerprints of a quantum spin liquid remained a mystery up until now. Neutron scattering techniques were employed to gaze at fractionalization in crystals of ruthenium chloride. The patterns these crystals formed on a screen were noted down.
An ordinary magnet would create distinct spots. But what patterns the Majorana fermions would make remained a conundrum.
However, with the new evidence coming to light, the state of our knowledge has been changed as well. Our understanding of the whole phenomenon has helped in the evolution of quantum physics.
"This is a new addition to a short list of known quantum states of matter," said Dr Johannes Knolle of Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory, one of the paper's co-authors.
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"It's an important step for our understanding of quantum matter," said Kovrizhin. "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."