In search of new states of matter, researchers have discovered that a special metal is doing something strange at a quantum level.
Sometimes it takes some time to prove scientific theories in the laboratory, and the recent discovery of a research team from the University of Liverpool in the UK and McMaster University in Canada is one such case.
Publishing your findings in Nature Phisics, the team discovered that a metal peroxide-bound metal oxide made from a rare Earth terbium exhibits a quantum spin-liquid state, a long-sought and unusual state of matter.
Using experimental technologies, including inelastic neutron scattering and muon spectroscopy, the team discovered that this exotic quantum state was derived from its local environment around the magnetic ions in the material. This discovery was a surprise for researchers who never expected metal oxide, TBiNO3, to show such a strange magnetic behavior due to its crystal structure.
The theory of quantum spin liquid states was first proposed more than 40 years ago by Nobel laureate Philip Anderson, suggesting that magnetic moments behave as a liquid, but do not freeze, even on an absolute zero.
"More intriguing properties for us to discover"
Raising several extraordinary material properties, this discovery can lead to further research into new materials that can be hosted in this state of matter, with potential applications, including quantum computing.
"When we study the tangled quantum states of matter, such as quantum spin, the implementation of an experiment often asks more questions than it can answer," said Dr Luke Clark of the University of Liverpool.
"In the case of TbInO3, however, physics is particularly rich, and we have been specially encouraged to investigate. Our study shows that TbInO3 is a fascinating magnetic material, and that it is most likely for us to have many more intriguing properties.
In other places in the world of quantum research, researchers in Finland have recently discovered that quantum structures at super-cold temperatures can create possible conditions of the early universe, right here on Earth.
The key element involved in this breakthrough was helium, whose unique properties means that the liquid remains at atmospheric pressure, even when it cools down to the absolute zero. Also, helium becomes "superfluid" at sufficiently low temperatures, which means it can run forever without loss of energy.