(CordisEuropa) Semimetal research has just taken an important step forward with the discovery of a material that could lead to the development of advanced quantum technologies. A team of scientists from Austria and the United States proved that a semimetal they were studying could achieve a naturally quantum critical state without any external influences. A paper published in the journal ‘Science Advances’ describes the research that received support from the EU-funded EMP project.
In quantum computers – the quantum technology people are most familiar with – information is stored in qubits, whose quantum states researchers are currently struggling to control. The new semimetal seems to possess certain quantum states of great stability that aren’t easily disturbed by outside forces, making it a promising material for quantum computers. Although more research is needed, this has given the team reason to hope that other materials with these quantum states could be designed.
This is important because quantum technologies will need a great number of quantum materials to make them work, Fuhrman explains in the news item. “A car is much more than just combustion in a cylinder. To get quantum technology rolling, we need quantum refrigerators, quantum sensors, as well as the qubits at the heart of quantum computers.”
When materials transition from one phase to another, for example, from a solid to a liquid when ice gets warmer and melts, it usually has to do with changes in temperature. However, phase transitions also happen when magnetic and superconducting states form. Scientists exploring the quantum properties of materials strive to achieve phase transitions at the absolute zero point of temperature, where quantum fluctuation occurs. When such a transition occurs, it’s called a quantum critical point. “Getting close to this point is usually extremely tricky, and you’re never entirely sure that your material would make it to the true quantum critical point,” remarks study first author Wesley Fuhrman of Johns Hopkins University.