Quantum Materials: A New Era of Information Systems

Quantum materials hold the potential for a future of information systems that are incredibly fast, energy-efficient, and powerful. However, harnessing this potential has been challenging, as the many atoms in a solid often obscure the exotic quantum properties of electrons. Rice University researchers in the lab of quantum materials scientist Hanyu Zhu have made a significant breakthrough in this area. They have discovered that when atoms in a rare-earth crystal move in a corkscrew-shaped vibration called a chiral phonon, the crystal becomes a magnet. This discovery has several important implications. First, it provides new insights into how the collective motion of atoms can break time-reversal symmetry, which is a fundamental principle of physics. Second, it opens up new possibilities for developing quantum materials with desirable properties. The researchers’ findings were published in the journal Science. Their work was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and the Robert A. Welch Foundation.

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