A new family of quantum matter

As if they had found a hidden world, physicists examining the magnetic field of a semiconductor material have discovered the first example of a new family of matter that exists exclusively in the strange realm of the quantum scale.

This discovery is the work of the team led by Gábor Csáthy, from Purdue University in the US.

In what the researchers call the bubble phase of the compound fermions, pairs of quasiparticles–particle-like entities that arise from particle interaction–align themselves in a crystal pattern, allowing electricity to flow along the edge of the material.

The discovery represents a previously unobserved arrangement of compound fermions, entities that behave like particles and are formed from the interaction between electrons and magnetism. The bubble phase of compound fermions belongs to a class of matter properly called topological insulators, and is characterized by the fact that electricity flows only along the outer surface or edge of the material, while the inner part does not conduct electricity.

Although condensed matter physicists have discovered dozens of topological insulators, the combined periodic and double structure of the bubble phase represents an entirely new family or subclass of highly interconnected topological insulators. Its existence has been theorized previously, but it has never been noticed until now.

The peculiar structure of the bubble phase represents an entirely new family of highly correlated topological phases. (Image: Second Bay Studios)

As the first member of a new family of highly interconnected topological phases, this new phase expands understanding of the role of electronic interactions in establishing higher-order correlations in electronic systems, Csáthy explained.

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For now, this discovery is largely only of interest to pure science (science without apparent practical utility, at least for the time being). However, it is possible that in the future it will find applications in areas such as quantum computing and quantum information storage.

Csáthy and colleagues presented technical details of their discovery in the academic journal Nature Physics, under the title “Highly Correlated Topological Bubble Phase of Synthesized Fermions”. (fountain: NCYT by Amazings)

Myrtle Frost

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