Harvard scientists have discovered a new form of matter, with unique properties that allow particles to be connected in spite of being separated. They believe it can be used for quantum computers.

  • The new state is called quantum spin liquid and has magnetic properties, along with properties that produce long-range quantum entanglement
  •  It was made using a quantum computer that uses lasers to reproduce a physical setting and manipulate atoms’ geometry and interactions
  • Now, this new state can be used for developing coveted quantum technology such as quantum computers. 

Harvard scientists have demonstrated that the new state in matter, which was first predicted 50 years earlier by scientists, can be found in a laboratory.

Called quantum spin liquid, it has special properties that produce long-range quantum entanglement — a phenomenon in which particles’ states are connected despite being separated by distance.

They used a “programmable quantum simulator” to recreate the new state, which uses lasers to manipulate atoms’ interactions and geometry.

Now, this new state can be used for developing coveted quantum technology such as quantum computer.

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A new state of matter that was predicted by scientists some 50 years ago has been proven in a lab by a team of Harvard physicists. The new state is called quantum spin liquid (stock photo)

The discovery of a new state in matter, which was first predicted 50 years ago by scientists has been confirmed by Harvard physicists. Quantum spin liquid is the new name for this state (stock photo).

Philip W. Anderson was the first to predict quantum spin liquid, in 1973. But it has not been demonstrated in experiment.

The Harvard researchers used an experimental method to replicate it in a laboratory, rather than trying to prove that the existence of this protein is real.

Giulia Semeghini, a postdoctoral fellow in the Max Planck-Harvard Research Center for Quantum Optics and lead author of the study, said in a statement: ‘A few theorists at Harvard came up with an idea on how to actually create this phase, instead of in the usual setting where it was looked for, which were basically solid systems — condensed-matter systems — how we could recreate it using our atoms.’

Quantum spin liquid is magnetic due to the magnetization of atoms.

Prof. Mikhail Lukin (left) and Giulia Semeghini, lead researcher, observe a state of matter predicted and hunted for 50 years but never previously observed

Giulia and Professor Mikhail Semeghini, the lead researchers, watch a state in matter which has been hunted and predicted for over 50 years, but was never observed before.

A traditional magnet, however, is designed in a pattern that looks like stripes on a  checkerboard, or a lattice, The Jerusalem Post reports. 

The properties of quantum spin liquid

Quantum spin liquid’s special properties produce quantum entanglement over long distances.

These particles remain connected, despite being far apart.

Because it is a lattice-like material, magnetic properties are also possible.

Harvard psychiatrists created the lattice design using the simulator. They then put atoms in the structure and watched them interact. 

They used the simulator for the creation of the lattice design. Then they placed the atoms in the structure and watched them interact.

Semeghini said that standard quantum computers have individual quantum bits, or ‘qubits’ — particles that can encode information — that are very ‘fragile against external perturbations.’

With quantum spin liquids, however, one could create a ‘topological qubit’ which stores information in the topology — the shape — of a system, as opposed to a standard qubit that stores information in the state of a single object, Semeghini said. 

The topological qubit, which is extremely difficult to break into topology, is highly resistant to errors.

Mikhail Lukin (physicist and senior author in the study, codirector of Harvard Quantum Initiative) The group claimed that they have only produced a baby version of topological qubits that are far too inefficient for practical application. However, it is nonetheless exciting.

Lukin declared, “It’s fundamental physics. Still, we’re doing it.” 

‘But the fact that we can create such states, and we can really play with them, we can poke at them, we can actually kind of talk to them and see how they respond — this is what’s exciting.’