A research team working on superconducting materials has detected a quantum phenomenon that points to the existence of a mysterious fundamental law that governs the collective behavior of particles. It is said to affect how the particles spread information and energy.
The mysterious principle
The study was conducted by a team working at the National Laboratory for Intense Magnetic Fields (LNCMI) in France and the University of Sherbrooke in Canada. They found that electrons inside one type of superconducting ceramic crystals called “cuprates” dissipated energy at high speeds. It was even hitting against the fundamental quantum speed limits, which “determine the minimum time for a given process to occur in terms of the energy fluctuations of the process,” according to Phys.Org.
Other exotic superconducting materials, like pnictides and strontium ruthenates, have already been discovered to burn off energy at the maximum allowable rate. What is striking about the new finding is that the speed limit at which energy burns is closely linked to the numerical value of Planck’s Constant, which relates the energy in one quantum of electromagnetic radiation to the frequency of that specific radiation.
Cuprates and other exotic superconducting materials burn off energy when they enter the “strange metal” phase. This is when these materials resist the flow of electricity at much higher rates than conventional materials. However, when the materials are cooled down to a specific temperature, they turn into lossless conductors of electricity. For the past three decades, physicists have been scratching their heads trying to control this form of superconductivity. With the new discovery, it seems like the behavior of electrons during the “strange metal” phase is key to unraveling the mystery.
What exactly these electrons do in the “strange metal” phase is unknown. Some scientists theorize that the electrons may be organizing themselves in a quantum state in which the properties of every single electron depend on the properties of all the others. This will potentially allow electrons to spread energy very close to the limits of quantum mechanics.
The entanglement of millions of electrons may even lead to an entirely new state of matter that physicists are not aware of. The experiments of the research team underlie the possibility of a universality across materials, involving a deep idea that interlinks concepts like gravity and black holes.
Interactive quantum matter
Meanwhile, researchers at JILA, earlier known as the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, have made a technical breakthrough that will allow scientists to control interacting quantum matter. JILA, well known for creating the world’s first Bose-Einstein Condensate, is jointly operated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado (CU).
“We are trying to understand the emergence of complexity when multiple particles — atoms here — interact with each other… Even though we may understand the rules perfectly on how two atoms interact, when multiple atoms get together there are always surprises. We want to understand the surprises quantitatively,” Jun Ye, a member of JILA and NIST, said to Science Daily.
The team found that packing three or more atoms into a single lattice cell might end up creating a deeply entangled state in which the quantum properties of the atoms are linked in a stable way. The discovery will help in boosting the performance of atomic clocks, quantum information systems, and different types of sensors.