Need to talk to these guys:
Scientists discover a ‘tuneable’ novel quantum state of matter
September 12, 2018, Princeton University
Quantum particles can be difficult to characterize, and almost impossible to control if they strongly interact with each other—until now.
An international team of researchers led by Princeton physicist Zahid Hasan has discovered a quantum state of matter that can be “tuned” at will—and it’s 10 times more tuneable than existing theories can explain. This level of manipulability opens enormous possibilities for next-generation nanotechnologies and quantum computing.
“We found a new control knob for the quantum topological world,” said Hasan, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics. “We expect this is tip of the iceberg. There will be a new subfield of materials or physics grown out of this. … This would be a fantastic playground for nanoscale engineering.”
Hasan and his colleagues, whose research appears in the current issue of Nature, are calling their discovery a “novel” quantum state of matter because it is not explained by existing theories of material properties.
Hasan’s interest in operating beyond the edges of known physics is what attracted Jiaxin Yin, a postdoctoral research associate and one of three co-first-authors on the paper, to his lab. Other researchers had encouraged him to tackle one of the defined questions in modern physics, Yin said.
“But when I talked to Professor Hasan, he told me something very interesting,” Yin said. “He’s searching for new phases of matter. The question is undefined. What we need to do is search for the question rather than the answer.”
Hasan has been working in the groundbreaking subfield of topological materials, an area of condensed matter physics, where his team discovered topological quantum magnets a few years ago. In the current research, he and his colleagues “found a strange quantum effect on the new type of topological magnet that we can control at the quantum level,” Hasan said.
The key was looking not at individual particles but at the ways they interact with each other in the presence of a magnetic field. Some quantum particles, like humans, act differently alone than in a community, Hasan said. “You can study all the details of the fundamentals of the particles, but there’s no way to predict the culture, or the art, or the society, that will emerge when you put them together and they start to interact strongly with each other,” he said.
To study this quantum “culture,” he and his colleagues arranged atoms on the surface of crystals in many different patterns and watched what happened. They used various materials prepared by collaborating groups in China, Taiwan and Princeton. One particular arrangement, a six-fold honeycomb shape called a “kagome lattice” for its resemblance to a Japanese basket-weaving pattern, led to something startling—but only when examined under a spectromicroscope in the presence of a strong magnetic field, equipment found in Hasan’s Laboratory for Topological Quantum Matter and Advanced Spectroscopy, located in the basement of Princeton’s Jadwin Hall.
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And they all need to talk to Linda Moulton Howe…