I know we all learned in chemistry class that the basic building blocks of the ‘matter syndicate’ are solid, liquid, gas, and plasma, but it appears there’s a new player in town; his name is ‘quantum spin liquid.’
There are in fact many different states of matter that you’ve either never heard of, or didn’t realize was considered a different state of matter, ie. glass, or ferromagnets.
The specific quantum spin liquid that researchers at MIT have discovered is called herbertsmithite, named after, well, I’m sure you can figure that out. Quantum spin liquids, or QSLs, have a very strange type of magnetism. Unlike the magnets you stick on your refrigerator, the electrons in a QSL don’t all align with the same orientation. In fact, the internal magnetism of a QSL is constantly fluctuating. Herbertsmithite is a solid crystal, but the magnetism is in constant motion like a liquid. Despite the constant fluctuations of the magnetic orientation of the electrons in the QSL, there is a strong connection between all of the electrons, allowing this specific type of matter to have what it takes to be used in long rang quantum entanglement.
So what does that mean for us harebrained civvies? According to Young Lee, the head researcher of the discovery, this means:
…advances in data storage or communications, perhaps using an exotic quantum phenomenon called long-range entanglement, in which two widely separated particles can instantaneously influence each other’s states. The findings could also bear on research into high-temperature superconductors, and could ultimately lead to new developments in that field.
Did I just hear instantaneous long range communication, infinite cloud storage, and flying cars? Yes’m.
The truth is that this discovery will likely involve unimaginable implications.
Lee explains that:
We have to get a more comprehensive understanding of the big picture. There is no theory that describes everything that we’re seeing.
In the last decade humanity has entered the wild, wild west of the quantum future. Herbertsmithite may very well be the trusted six shooter we’ve been waiting for.