Quantum scientists at the University of Bristol have made an astonishing breakthrough in their research, uncovering a rare phenomenon that could revolutionize quantum technology. Their study focused on purple bronze, a one-dimensional metal composed of individual conducting chains of atoms. By subjecting purple bronze to minimal stimuli like heat or light, the researchers discovered that it can transition between being an insulator with zero conductivity and a superconductor with unlimited conductivity. This surprising ability, known as ’emergent symmetry’, challenges traditional notions of symmetry in physics.
Lead author Nigel Hussey, Professor of Physics at the University of Bristol, expressed his excitement about the finding, stating, “It’s a really exciting discovery which could provide a perfect switch for quantum devices of tomorrow.” The potential applications of this discovery are vast. Highly sensitive switches in quantum circuits could be developed, opening up new possibilities for quantum technology.
The journey towards this breakthrough began 13 years ago when two PhD students measured the magnetoresistance of purple bronze. Although the material demonstrated complex behavior, the magnetoresistance remained remarkably simple, exhibiting a linear temperature dependence and being unaffected by the direction of the current or magnetic field. Without any coherent explanation for this behavior, the data remained unexplained and unpublished for seven years.
In 2017, while at Radboud University, Prof Hussey attended a seminar on purple bronze and connected with physicist Dr. Piotr Chudzinski. Their subsequent experiment confirmed Chudzinski’s theory that the resistive upturn observed in the material may be caused by interference between conduction electrons and composite particles known as ‘dark excitons’. This breakthrough led to the concept of emergent symmetry.
The discovery of emergent symmetry in purple bronze challenges the notion of symmetry breaking and highlights the rarity of a system becoming more symmetric as it cools. The researchers further tested their theory by investigating 100 individual crystals of purple bronze with different ground states. The results confirmed the validity of the emergent symmetry phenomenon.
This groundbreaking finding holds immense potential for the development of efficient quantum device switches and further advancements in quantum technology. The future of quantum circuits and their impact on various industries is promising, driven by the potential of emergent symmetry.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is emergent symmetry?
Emergent symmetry refers to the rare phenomenon where a material possesses both insulating and superconducting states simultaneously at certain temperatures, challenging traditional notions of symmetry in physics.
How can purple bronze switch between being an insulator and a superconductor?
Purple bronze can transition between these two states through minimal stimuli like heat or light. Tiny changes in the material can trigger instant switches between an insulating state and a superconducting state with unlimited conductivity.
What are the potential applications of this discovery?
This discovery could lead to the development of highly sensitive switches in quantum circuits, revolutionizing quantum technology. These switches have the potential to enhance the efficiency and capabilities of quantum devices.
How does this finding challenge traditional notions of symmetry?
Traditionally, cooling a system leads to a decrease in symmetry. Emergent symmetry, as observed in purple bronze, defies this expectation by becoming more symmetric as it cools.