(Colorado.edu) Researchers from CU Boulder and the University of Toronto discovered that it could nudge quantum materials to undergo transitions between “dynamical phases” similar to phase transitions when water becomes ice.
“This happens abruptly. . . ,” said study coauthor Ana Maria Rey. “But unlike that tray of ice cubes in the freezer, these phases don’t exist in equilibrium. Instead, atoms are constantly shifting and evolving over time.” The findings, she added, provide a new window into materials that are hard to investigate in the laboratory.
“If you want to, for example, design a quantum communications system to send signals from one place to another, everything will be out of equilibrium,” said Rey, a fellow at JILA, a joint institute between CU Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). “Such dynamics will be the key problem to understand if we want to apply what we know to quantum technologies.”

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