(ZDNet) New research from MIT has now shed some light on the obscure laws that govern the smallest of particles, which could pave the way for further developments in the design of quantum devices that rely on atomic spin.
A higher-level understanding of quantum particles could also lead to the design of new technologies, such as spintronic devices, according to the researchers. Unlike electronics, which leverage the flow of electrons, spintronics tap the spin of quantum particles to transmit, process and store information. They hold promise, therefore, for quantum computing, where the spin of particles would constitute a bit of quantum information. Strings of ultracold atoms reveal the surprising behavior of quantum particles
The team exposed spinning lithium atoms to magnetic forces of different strengths to observe how the quantum particles reacted both individually and as a group. They were faced in each scenario with a surprising choreography of atoms, revealing unexpected diversity of behavior in a well-known and studied magnetic material.
MIT’s research team focused on the way that atoms evolve from dynamic behavior back into an equilibrium state – and found that the magnetic force that the atoms are exposed to plays a key part in determining the particles’ behavior. “Studying one of the simplest magnetic materials, we have advanced the understanding of magnetism,” said Wolfgang Ketterle, professor of physics at MIT and the leader of the research team.
Although some of this behavior had been theoretically predicted in the past, detailed observation of patterns of atomic spins had never been observed in detail until now. These patterns, however, were found to fit an existing mathematical model called the Heisenberg model, which is commonly used to predict magnetic behavior.

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