ETH researchers make special magnetism visible

Zurich – Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) have developed the quantum pointillism method, which can be used to solve physical puzzles. Together with American researchers, they were able to visualize a special form of magnetism that could not be explained until now.

Eugen Demler and his colleagues at ETH have discovered a new method with which they can investigate how individual mobile electrons can cause certain materials to become magnetic. To enable the researchers to take a closer look at the complex quantum system of many interacting particles, researchers from the American universities of Havard and Cambridge have used quantum simulators to generate images of colorful dots and thus make the method visible. It is referred to as quantum pointillism in reference to the painting technique of pointillism.

"For the first time, we have solved a physical puzzle with experiments both on the 'real' solid and in the quantum simulator," Eugen Demler is quoted as saying in a press release. "Our theoretical work is the glue that holds everything together." Demler is confident that his method will also be helpful for other tricky problems in the future. For example, the mechanism could also play an important role in high-temperature superconductors, according to the press release. The superconductivity of non-metallic materials such as ceramics has not yet been explained.

It all began around two years ago at ETH, when a working group led by Ataç Imamoğlu investigated special materials with a triangular crystal lattice (moiré materials made from transition metal dichalcogenides) in experiments. While analyzing Imamoğlu's data, Demler and his postdoctoral researcher Ivan Morera came across peculiarities that pointed to a type of magnetism that had previously only been predicted theoretically. "With this kinetic magnetism, a few electrons moving in the crystal lattice can magnetize the material," Morera is quoted as saying. "The investigations represent a paradigm shift in our understanding of such magnetic quantum phenomena," continues Demler. "We haven't been able to study these in detail yet." ce/js

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