Ultracold atoms reveal a new type of quantum magnetic behavior

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+  In experiments with ultracold lithium atoms, the researchers observed different ways in which the spins of the atoms evolve. Like tippy ballerinas pirouetting back to upright positions, the spinning atoms return to an equilibrium orientation in a way that depends on the magnetic forces between individual atoms. For example, the atoms can spin into equilibrium in an extremely fast, “ballistic” fashion or in a slower, more diffuse pattern.

This improved understanding of magnetism may help engineers design “spintronic” devices, which transmit, process, and store information using the spin of quantum particles rather than the flow of electrons.

+  The researchers found that these behaviors, which had not been observed until now, could be described mathematically by the Heisenberg model, a set of equations commonly used to predict magnetic behavior. Their results address the fundamental nature of magnetism, revealing a diversity of behavior in one of the simplest magnetic materials.

+  In addition to advancing the understanding of magnetism at a fundamental level, the team’s results may be used to explore the properties of new materials, as a sort of quantum simulator. Such a platform could work like a special-purpose quantum computer that calculates the behavior of materials, in a way that exceeds the capabilities of today’s most powerful computers.

+  “With all of the current excitement about the promise of quantum information science to solve practical problems in the future, it is great to see work like this actually coming to fruition today,” says John Gillaspy, program officer in the Division of Physics at the National Science Foundation, a funder of the research.

Source:  MIT News.  Jennifer Chu,  Ultracold atoms reveal a new type of quantum magnetic behavior…

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