Physicists Discover an Entirely New Type of Quantum Material

A group of scientists at Rice University and Vienna University of Technology, discovered an entirely new material that cannot be explained with classical physics.

The quantum world can be mind-boggling weird, forcing us to rethink what happens in our natural world. There is still so much to learn about that subatomic world, and this was confirmed in the law of the discovery of a new quantum material by researchers at Rice University.

A Quantum Quest Leads to a New Discovery 

A study to be published in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has some exciting news for the theoretical physics community. Theoretical physicist Qimao Si and his colleagues at Rice Univerity's Rice Center for Quantum Materials, as well as the Vienna University of Technology in Austria, have revealed a new quantum material that holds similar properties to that of disparate materials like heavy fermion metal and topological insulators. Dubbed the "Weyl-Kondo semimetal," physicists came across the material as they were searching for an explanation for high-temperature superconductivity. This type of research looks to find materials that could potentially act as superconductors at ridiculously high temperatures. It is the focus of Qimao Si and his groups' research"We have been absolutely fascinated by strongly correlated materials," states Si. "Collective behavior such as quantum criticality and high-temperature superconductivity have always been the center of our attention." 

Like a lot of things in the quantum world, "quantum materials" behave very strangely.  Quantum materials are ceramics, layered composite, and other materials whose electromagnetic behavior cannot be explained by your traditional everyday physics.  

Though still only theoretical, the Weyl-Kondo Semimetal is as named this way because of its behavior, a semimetal in which the electrons behave as if they were photons with no mass. Weird, right? The Kondo part of the name is in reference to the sporadic like electrons found within magnetic metals, scattered around the metal due to chemical impurities. 

Theoretical Materials

The "Weyl" part of Weyl-Kondo Semimetal is a reference to a name that comes from the theorized no mass having particles called Weyl fermions.


Quantum Confidential: The Lost History of Quantum Mechanics

What makes these Weyl fermions so quirky is how they behave compared to traditional fermions. Regular fermions need to follow certain rules and include electrons, protons, quarks, and other structures. Weyl fermions do not. 

The discovery indicates that there's still is so much of the quantum world to learn. If materials like the Weyl-Kondo semimetal does exist, it could greatly contribute to the development of technology used in the coming age of supercomputers. Even more interesting, it could change how the world energy transmission technology because of the interesting conductivity characteristics of Weyl fermions.