Extremely Rare Quantum Spin Liquid Observed In Crystal Point

First Posted: Dec 10, 2016 04:00 AM EST

Quantum spin liquid, a very rare state of matter, has been observed in a new crystal especially designed with the hopes of using its unique quantum properties.

The crystal, an ytterbium compound with the formula YbMgGaO4, was first synthesized by Chinese scientists for the first time in 2015. Now, in a new study published in the journal Nature, researchers from the United States suggest that the new material can produce a quantum spin liquid when frozen to temperatures near absolute zero. At present, only a few materials are believed to possess these properties.

"Imagine a state of matter where this entanglement doesn't involve two electrons but involves, three, five, 10 or 10 billion particles all in the same system," Martin Mourigal, lead physicist of the study, said in a press release by Georgia Tech. "You can create a very, very exotic state of matter based on the fact that all these particles are entangled with each other. There are no individual particles anymore, but one huge electron ensemble acting collectively," he added.

Quantum Spin Liquid

Quantum spin liquid is a state that can be achieved in a system of interacting quantum spins. It causes electrons, which are thought to be inseparable building blocks of nature, break into pieces.

The spin liquid is unique and interesting because they have massive amounts of entanglement. Quantum entanglement is a strange phenomenon that gives quantum computers their fabled power over traditional ones, Yahoo reports.

Though entanglement has been proven in various experiments, the researchers took it further. When they observed this massive "spooky" entanglement, they noticed that it created a system of electrons, a quantum spin liquid.

However, despite the name, the quantum spin liquid is actually not a liquid. The term liquid refers to the state of the quantum spins of its constituent electrons and the collective nature of electrons' spins in the crystal.

The findings of the study could open doors to other unknown quantum spin liquid materials, paving the way to the development of future quantum computers.

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