September 26, 2022

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Scientists have observed quantum phenomena on an elusive scale so far

Scientists have observed quantum phenomena on an elusive scale so far

Scientists from the universities of Dresden and Munich have discovered a new type of phase transition that causes the properties of selected materials to change under extreme conditions.

The passages they have discovered, are described in the pages temper nature, includes the phenomenon of quantum entanglement involving many atoms. Previously, such observations concerned a much smaller number of them. More specifically, members of the research team have succeeded in making things that are groundbreaking in the field of entanglement and superposition.

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Until now, it was known that materials with properties such as magnetism have so-called domains. Within it, the properties of a particular substance are homogeneous or belong to one or another species. The LiHoF compound has been shown to be the subject of interest to the authors of new research on this issue4Where the domains display the features of quantum mechanics.

An example of a change in the properties of the selected materials is water, which at a temperature of 100 ° C turns into a gas, becoming subzero ice. Either way, these new states are the result of a phase transition where the water molecules change their arrangement, thus changing the properties of the material. On the other hand, magnetism or superconductivity arises as a result of the passage of electrons through phase transitions in crystals. In the case of phase transitions at temperatures close to absolute zero, we are talking about phenomena such as entanglement and quantum phase transitions.

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Quantum entanglement refers to a state in which entangled quantum particles are in a superposition. However, while it may seem that the laws of quantum mechanics apply only to microscopic particles, scientists from Germany have been able to observe the effects of quantum entanglement on a much larger scale, involving thousands of atoms. The above relationship turns out to be crucial in this.

LiHoF at very low temperatures4 It behaves like a ferromagnet, but it is sufficient to apply the magnetic field exactly perpendicular to the momentarily preferred magnetic direction to reverse the direction. This is known as volatility. The stronger the magnetic field, the stronger these fluctuations become. At some point, the ferromagnetism completely disappears in the quantum phase transition and the entanglement of neighboring magnetic moments occurs.

We found that the quantum phase transition still occurred, while it was previously thought that even the slightest tilt in the magnetic field would immediately suppress it. […] We used spherical samples for our precise measurements. This allowed us to study precisely the behavior with small changes in the direction of the magnetic field.The study authors explain

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How can these discoveries be used in practice? First of all, they constitute a reference point for the study of quantum phenomena in materials. In addition, team members add that quantum entanglement is used and used in technologies such as quantum sensors and quantum computers, among others. Therefore, the results of the new research could have a direct impact on the development of practical applications if the properties of materials are used in a controlled manner.

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