A quantum magnet is 3 billion times colder than interstellar space, scientists discover

The study was published in the journal Nature Physics on September 1.

Rice University’s Kaden Hazzard, the corresponding theory author of the study, explained in the press release that the team based in Kyoto, led by study author Yoshiro Takahashi, used lasers to cool its fermions, atoms of ytterbium, (particles that include things like electrons and are one of two types of particles that all matter is made of). Ultimately, they created a magnet based on a spin-like property that has six color-labelled options.

The team cooled the particles down to such low temperatures because “the physics starts to become more quantum mechanical, and it lets you see new phenomena,” said Hazzard.

Ultimately, the quantum behaviors of atoms become much more evident when they are cooled within a fraction of a degree of absolute zero. By using lasers to cool atoms down, it’s easier to observe them as their movements become restricted to optical lattices. These lattices are 1D, 2D, and 3D channels of light that can be used as quantum simulators capable of solving complex problems that conventional computers can’t solve.

A quantum magnet is 3 billion times colder than interstellar space, scientists discover

An artist’s conception of the complex magnetic correlations

Takahashi’s lab in Japan used these optical lattices to simulate a Hubbard model, a regularly-used quantum model used to investigate the magnetic and superconducting behavior of materials.

As the team explained in the press release, “The Hubbard model simulated in Kyoto has special symmetry known as SU(N), where SU stands for special unitary group — a mathematical way of describing the symmetry — and N denotes the possible spin states of particles in the model.”

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