The material, called quantum spin liquid, has potential applications for quantum computing and therefore could help accelerate on-coming paradigm shift-away from classical computing.
Harvard scientists prove a decades old hypothesis
In 1973, physicist Philip Anderson hypothesized the existence of an exotic state of matter called quantum spin liquids. Once cooled, material electrons do not stabilize, as is the case with normal magnetic materials. Instead, the electrons in the quantum spin liquids entangle with each-other & constantly change due to the quirks of quantum mechanics. In a press release, Harvard scientists describe it as “one of the most entangled quantum states ever designed.”
Almost 50 years later, the Harvard team created & closely observed a quantum spin liquid for the first time, proving the Anderson hypothesis. In-order to create the material, they used a quantum simulator that uses lasers to suspend 219 atoms in a grid. These lasers allow users to monitor atoms, down to the spin of their electrons, allowing them to study the microscopic behavior of materials.
The special properties of the new material from Harvard scientists could help to-progress the field of quantum computing. The team presents their findings in a research article published in the journal Science. “It’s a very special moment in field,” said Mikhail Lukin, author of the study, in the Harvard statement. “You can really touch,poke & prod at this exotic state & manipulate it to understand its properties. It’s a new state of matter that people have never been able to observe.
Quantum leap for quantum computing?
Specifically, the Harvard team’s study of quantum spin liquids could lead to the creation of more reliable qubits, which are the quantum computational equivalent of the bit used in classical computing. While qubits have great potential to process large amounts of data in a fraction of the time, they are notoriously difficult to stabilize because they are incredibly sensitive to external interference such as temperature & vibration.
According to lead author of the study, Giulia Semeghini, the team showed “the very first steps on how to create this topological qubit, but [they] have yet to demonstrate how you can actually en-code & manipulate it. There is now a lot more to explore. “Harvard researchers will continue to study quantum spin liquids in an effort to help develop stable qubits, the building blocks of quantum computing.