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Pitt discoveries in quantum physics could change face of technology
Date:11/21/2011

PITTSBURGHResearchers at the University of Pittsburgh have made advances in better understanding correlated quantum matter that could change technology as we know it, according to a study published in the Nov. 20 edition of Nature.

W. Vincent Liu, associate professor of physics in Pitt's Department of Physics and Astronomy, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Maryland and the University of Hamburg in England, has been studying topological states in order to advance quantum computing, a method that harnesses the power of atoms and molecules for computational tasks. Through his research, with more than $1 million in funding from two consecutive four-year grants from the U.S. Army Research Office and a five-year shared grant from the DARPA Optical Lattice Emulator Program, Liu and his team have been studying orbital degrees of freedom and nano-Kelvin cold atoms in optical lattices (a set of standing wave lasers) to better understand new quantum states of matter.

From that research, a surprising topological semimetal has emerged.

"We never expected a result like this based on previous studies," said Liu. "We were surprised to find that such a simple system could reveal itself as a new type of topological statean insulator that shares the same properties as a quantum Hall state in solid materials."

Since the discovery of the quantum Hall effect by Klaus Van Klitzing in 1985, researchers like Liu have been particularly interested in studying topological states of matter, that is, properties of space unchanged under continuous deformations or distortions such as bending and stretching. The quantum Hall effect proved that when a magnetic field is applied perpendicular to the direction a current is flowing through a metal, a voltage is developed in the third perpendicular direction. Liu's work has yielded similar yet remarkably different results.

"This new quantum state is very reminiscent of qu
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Contact: B. Rose Huber
rhuber@pitt.edu
412-624-4356
University of Pittsburgh
Source:Eurekalert

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