The two types of magnetism have been known since the 1970s when Nobel Prize was given to Louis Neel. In both ferromagnetism and antiferromagnetism, the materials should be cooled below certain temperature so that they can be magnetic.
Scientists at MIT published a study in this week’s issue of the journal Nature, where they report on the newly discovered third fundamental state for magnetism.
The quantum spin liquid (QSL) is a solid crystal, however its magnetic state is described as liquid. As opposed to the other two states, the magnetic orientations of the particles in it are constantly moving within a true liquid. Here there is no magnetic moment, according to the Young Lee, one of the co-authors and professor at MIT.
The experiment is one of the hardest to prove, however with the extensive dataset used in the study, the team was able to turn theory into practice.
The crystal material comes from a mineral called herbertsmithite. During the experiment, the team was able to find a state with fractionalized excitations, which were only known in theory before. These states within the QSL material form a continuum, which has not been reported ever before.
The technique that was applied in order to measure the state is called neutron scattering, performed on a neutron spectrometer. The results show clear evidence of the fractionalization of the spin states.
Although the research is innovative and fundamental, it might take some time before it can be used in a practical application. The team, however, believes that it might be applied in future generation data storage or communication systems. It could also be applied in high-temperature superconductors.