In a surprising discovery, Princeton physicists have observed an unexpected quantum behavior in an insulator made from a material called tungsten ditelluride. This phenomenon, known as quantum oscillation, is typically observed in metals rather than insulators, and its discovery offers new insights into our understanding of the quantum world. The findings also hint at the existence of an entirely new type of quantum particle.
The discovery challenges a long-held distinction between metals and insulators, because in the established quantum theory of materials, insulators were not thought to be able to experience quantum oscillations.
If our interpretations are correct, we are seeing a fundamentally new form of quantum matter, said Sanfeng Wu, assistant professor of physics at Princeton University and the senior author of a recent paper in Nature detailing this new discovery. We are now imagining a wholly new quantum world hidden in insulators. Its possible that we simply missed identifying them over the last several decades.
The observation of quantum oscillations has long been considered a hallmark of the difference between metals and insulators. In metals, electrons are highly mobile, and resistivity the resistance to electrical conduction is weak. Nearly a century ago, researchers observed that a magnetic field, coupled with very low temperatures, can cause electrons to shift from a classical state to a quantum state, causing oscillations in the metals resistivity. In insulators, by contrast, electrons cannot move and the materials have very high resistivity, so quantum oscillations of this sort are not expected to occur, no matter the strength of magnetic field applied.
The discovery was made when the researchers were studying a material called tungsten ditelluride, which they made into a two-dimensional material. They prepared the material by using standard scotch tape to increasingly exfoliate, or shave, the layers down to what is called a monolayer a single atom-thin layer. Thick tungsten ditelluride behaves like a metal. But once it is converted to a monolayer, it becomes a very strong insulator.
This material has a lot of special quantum properties, Wu said.
The researchers then set about measuring the resistivity of the monolayer tungsten ditelluride under magnetic fields. To their surprise, the resistivity of the insulator, despite being quite large, began to oscillate as the magnetic field was increased, indicating the shift into a quantum state. In effect, the material a very strong insulator was exhibiting the most remarkable quantum property of a metal.
This came as a complete surprise, Wu said. We asked ourselves, Whats going on here? We dont fully understand it yet.
Wu noted that there are no current theories to explain this phenomenon.
Nonetheless, Wu and his colleagues have put forward a provocative hypothesis a form of quantum matter that is neutrally charged. Because of very strong interactions, the electrons are organizing themselves to produce this new kind of quantum matter, Wu said.
But it is ultimately no longer the electrons that are oscillating, said Wu. Instead, the researchers believe that new particles, which they have dubbed neutral fermions, are born out of these strongly interacting electrons and are responsible for creating this highly remarkable quantum effect.
Fermions are a category of quantum particles that include electrons. In quantum materials, charged fermions can be negatively charged electrons or positively charged holes that are responsible for the electrical conduction. Namely, if the material is an electrical insulator, these charged fermions cant move freely. However, particles that are neutral that is, neither negatively nor positively charged are theoretically possible to be present and mobile in an insulator.
Our experimental results conflict with all existing theories based on charged fermions, said Pengjie Wang, co-first author on the paper and postdoctoral research associate, but could be explained in the presence of charge-neutral fermions.
The Princeton team plans further investigation into the quantum properties of tungsten ditelluride. They are particularly interested in discovering whether their hypothesis about the existence of a new quantum particle is valid.
This is only the starting point, Wu said. If were correct, future researchers will find other insulators with this surprising quantum property.
Despite the newness of the research and the tentative interpretation of the results, Wu speculated about how this phenomenon could be put to practical use.
Its possible that neutral fermions could be used in the future for encoding information that would be useful in quantum computing, he said. In the meantime, though, were still in the very early stages of understanding quantum phenomena like this, so fundamental discoveries have to be made.
Reference: Landau quantization and highly mobile fermions in an insulator by Pengjie Wang, Guo Yu, Yanyu Jia, Michael Onyszczak, F. Alexandre Cevallos, Shiming Lei, Sebastian Klemenz, Kenji Watanabe, Takashi Taniguchi, Robert J. Cava, Leslie M. Schoop and Sanfeng Wu, Nature.DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03084-9
In addition to Wu and Wang, the team included co-first authors Guo Yu, a graduate student in electrical engineering, and Yanyu Jia, a graduate student in physics. Other key Princeton contributors were Leslie Schoop, assistant professor of chemistry; Robert Cava, the Russell Wellman Moore Professor of Chemistry; Michael Onyszczak, a physics graduate student; and three former postdoctoral research associates: Shiming Lei, Sebastian Klemenz and F. Alexandre Cevallos, who is also a 2018 Princeton Ph.D. alumnus. Kenji Watanabe and Takashi Taniguchi of the National Institute for Material Science in Japan also contributed.
Landau quantization and highly mobile fermions in an insulator, by Pengjie Wang, Guo Yu, Yanyu Jia, Michael Onyszczak, F. Alexandre Cevallos, Shiming Lei, Sebastian Klemenz, Kenji Watanabe, Takashi Taniguchi, Robert J. Cava, Leslie M. Schoop, and Sanfeng Wu, was published Jan. 4 in the journal Nature (DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03084-9).
This work was primarily supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the Princeton University Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (DMR-1420541 and DMR-2011750) and a CAREER award (DMR-1942942). Early measurements were performed at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, which is supported by an NSF Cooperative Agreement (DMR-1644779), and the State of Florida. Additional support came from the Elemental Strategy Initiative conducted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan (JPMXP0112101001), the Japan Society for the Promotion of Sciences KAKENHI program (JP20H00354) and the Japan Science and Technology Agencys CREST program (JPMJCR15F3). Further support came from the U.S. Army Research Office Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative on Topological Insulators (W911NF1210461), the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation through a Beckman Young Investigator grant, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (GBMF9064).
- The windswept German island that inspired quantum physics - Spectator.co.uk - April 8th, 2021
- A Tiny Particles Wobble Could Upend the Known Laws of Physics - The New York Times - April 8th, 2021
- New computing algorithms expand the boundaries of a quantum future - Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory - April 8th, 2021
- Quantum Computing Revolution: Is it the next big thing? - Analytics Insight - April 8th, 2021
- Scientists Are Baffled By A Mysterious Particle That Defies Physics And Violates The Laws Of The Universe - BroBible - April 8th, 2021
- Officials Aim to Diversify the U.S. Quantum Workforce Early On - Nextgov - April 8th, 2021
- Searching for New Physics in the Subatomic World - SciTechDaily - April 8th, 2021
- Herms collaborates with artists on Watches and Wonders 2021 scenography - Wallpaper* - April 8th, 2021
- Quantum Physics to Disrupt Geospatial Industry over the Coming Decade - GIM International - April 4th, 2021
- The mystery of the muon's magnetism | symmetry magazine - Symmetry magazine - April 4th, 2021
- 6 Quantum Computing Stocks to Invest in This Decade - Investment U - April 4th, 2021
- Can science explain the mystery of consciousness? - The Irish Times - April 4th, 2021
- 'Spacekime theory' could speed up research and heal the rift in physics - Big Think - April 4th, 2021
- Where did the antimatter go? - The Express Tribune - April 4th, 2021
- Small things misbehaving leads to the greatest question of all - Spectator.co.uk - April 4th, 2021
- Ultracold Quantum Collisions Have Been Achieved in Space for the First Time - Scientific American - March 23rd, 2021
- I'm Agonizing over My Naive Realism - Scientific American - March 23rd, 2021
- Six fabulous facts about the Standard Model - Symmetry magazine - March 23rd, 2021
- Cryptocurrency: Can it be climate conscious, and if so, how? - Landscape News - March 23rd, 2021
- Physicists Create Quasiparticles That Bind Together Two Differently Colored Particles of Light - SciTechDaily - March 6th, 2021
- Element Sixs DNV-B1 Announced Winner for the Quantum Category at the 13th Edition of the SPIE Prism Awards - AZoM - March 6th, 2021
- Tech that sees through the earth could help build cities of the future - The Times - March 6th, 2021
- Physicists Just Found 4 New Subatomic Particles That May Test The Laws of Nature - ScienceAlert - March 6th, 2021
- Living in a simulation: Is Universe a Neural Network? - The Indian Wire - March 6th, 2021
- This Is the Fastest Random-Number Generator Ever Built - Scientific American - March 4th, 2021
- Physics - The Tiniest Superfluid Circuit in Nature - Physics - March 4th, 2021
- New research indicates the whole universe could be a giant neural network - The Next Web - March 4th, 2021
- New History of the Physics Department by Raj Gupta and Paul Sharrah Published - University of Arkansas Newswire - March 4th, 2021
- International Business Machines : The Decade of Quantum Computing Is Upon Us, IBM Executive Says - Marketscreener.com - March 4th, 2021
- Quantum Tunneling in Graphene Advances the Age of High Speed Terahertz Wireless Communications - SciTechDaily - March 4th, 2021
- Subtle quantum phenomenon found to alter chemical reactivity for the first time - Chemistry World - March 4th, 2021
- Physicists believe faster-than-light travel is indeed possible with new warp drive - ZME Science - March 4th, 2021
- Exclusive! Ashwin Sanghi on his dream to cast Sushant Singh Rajput in 'Keepers Of The Kalachakra' series: He was like an excited child when it came to... - March 4th, 2021
- Can god be disproved using the laws of physics? An expert explains how it depends on perspective - Scroll.in - March 4th, 2021
- Global Quantum Computing Technologies Market will grow to at CAGR 15.89% from 2020 to 2027 KSU | The Sentinel Newspaper - KSU | The Sentinel... - March 4th, 2021
- Quantum Technology Innovation Hub to transform local businesses - University of Birmingham - March 4th, 2021
- And So It Begins Quantum Physicists Create a New Universe With Its Own Rules - The Daily Galaxy --Great Discoveries Channel - February 18th, 2021
- Quantum Theory May Twist Cause And Effect Into Loops, With Effect Causing The Cause - ScienceAlert - February 18th, 2021
- Extracting information stored in 100,000 nuclear quantum bits - Advanced Science News - February 18th, 2021
- Light and a Single Electron Used to Detect Quantum Information Stored in 100,000 Nuclear Quantum Bits - SciTechDaily - February 18th, 2021
- IBM Adds Future Developer And Software Details To Its Quantum Roadmap - Forbes - February 18th, 2021
- Physics - A Superconducting Qubit that Protects Itself - Physics - February 18th, 2021
- Black Quantum Futurism receives the Knight Foundations new art and technology fellowship - WHYY - February 18th, 2021
- Resolving to read more in 2021 - Powell Tribune - February 18th, 2021
- Warp Drives Are No Longer Science Fiction - Applied Physics - Business Wire - February 18th, 2021
- RI local and star of 'Ghost Hunters' + 'Kindred Spirits' on her search for the paranormal - The Providence Journal - February 18th, 2021
- Quantum Theory Proposes That Cause and Effect Can Go In Loops - Universe Today - February 14th, 2021
- The search for dark matter gets a speed boost from quantum technology - The Conversation US - February 14th, 2021
- A Magnetic Twist to Graphene Could Offer a Dramatic Increase in Processing Speeds Compared to Electronics - SciTechDaily - February 14th, 2021
- Yale Quantum Institute Co-sponsored Event - Alternative Realities for the Living - Quantum Physics & Fiction - Yale News - February 14th, 2021
- In Violation of Einstein, Black Holes Might Have 'Hair' - Quanta Magazine - February 14th, 2021
- Scientists narrow down the 'weight' of dark matter trillions of trillions of times - Livescience.com - February 5th, 2021
- Switching Nanolight On and Off | Columbia News - Columbia University - February 5th, 2021
- Photoelectric effect of physics in technology - The National - February 5th, 2021
- Quantum Physics Story Helgoland to Be Adapted by Fremantles The Apartment, CAM Film (EXCLUSIVE) - Variety - February 2nd, 2021
- 29 Scientists Came Together in the "Most Intelligent Photo" Ever Taken - My Modern Met - February 2nd, 2021
- Silence your stoner friends with this video of a room entirely constructed out of mirrors - The A.V. Club - February 2nd, 2021
- Valuable contributor to society - The Tribune India - February 2nd, 2021
- A Zoom with a view: Wintersession offers a virtual journey from the kitchen to Hollywood - Princeton University - February 2nd, 2021
- IBMs top executive says, quantum computers will never reign supreme over classical ones - The Hindu - January 31st, 2021
- Tech 24 - Welcome to the quantum era - FRANCE 24 - January 31st, 2021
- Physicists Are Reinventing the Laser - Gizmodo - January 31st, 2021
- Record-Breaking Source for Single Photons Developed That Can Produce Billions of Quantum Particles per Second - SciTechDaily - January 31st, 2021
- How Universes Might Bubble Up and Collide - WIRED - January 31st, 2021
- Insiders say Comedy Central's top creative executives tokenized employees of color and fostered an environment - Business Insider India - January 31st, 2021
- Copperizing the Complexity of Superconductivity - Newswise - January 31st, 2021
- The Convergence of Internet of Things and Quantum Computing - BBN Times - January 31st, 2021
- Who You Really Are And Why It Matters | Practical Ethics - Practical Ethics - January 31st, 2021
- Improving LIDAR and GPS: Breaking Through the Resolution Barrier With Quantum-Limited Precision - SciTechDaily - January 18th, 2021
- Amy Noelle Parks Brings The Romance of Math and Science To YA - The Nerd Daily - January 18th, 2021
- If Wormholes Are Lurking in Our Universe, This Is How We Could Find Them - ScienceAlert - January 18th, 2021
- New quantum technology projects to solve mysteries of the universe - Open Access Government - January 14th, 2021
- Exploring the unanswered questions of our universe with quantum technologies - University of Birmingham - January 14th, 2021
- Wormholes may be lurking in the universe and new studies are proposing ways of finding them - The Conversation UK - January 14th, 2021
- University of Sheffield to lead multi-million pound project which could open up a new frontier in physics - University of Sheffield News - January 14th, 2021
- Raytheon UK part of team transforming the Royal Navy's technology, training and learning solutions - PRNewswire - January 14th, 2021
- Optical selection and sorting of nanoparticles according to quantum mechanical properties - Science Advances - January 14th, 2021
- The unhackable computers that could revolutionize the future - CNN - January 8th, 2021
- Birds Have a Mysterious 'Quantum Sense'. For The First Time, Scientists Saw It in Action - ScienceAlert - January 8th, 2021
- How understanding light has led to a hundred years of bright ideas - The Economist - January 8th, 2021