Associate Professor of Theoretical Physics Xie Chen is a member of the newly established Simons Collaboration on Ultra-Quantum Matter. The collaboration will study fundamentally quantum mechanical behavior of matter, in systems like metals, magnets, superconductors etc. “One of the biggest surprises of quantum mechanics is entanglement — the spooky action at a distance,” Xie says.
“Now more than eighty years after its discovery, we have learned not only to accept the concept, but also to embrace it and to explore it at the next level where thousands or millions or even more atoms and electrons in a macroscopic matter are entangled together and participate in the ‘spooky action’ in a collective way.” Such ultra-quantum matter (UQM) defies conventional expectations that quantum effects are important only in very small systems. It allows for entirely new physical properties, which may help future technologies by enabling the nonlocal storage of quantum information, and the creation of quantum materials with new functionalities.
In a notable reversal of the trend towards increased specialization, recent breakthroughs in the theory of UQM have brought together physicists working in different domains. This is reflected in the UQM collaboration team which consists of condensed matter and high energy theorists, as well as atomic and quantum information experts, who will work together on discovering the properties of new forms of UQM and help enable their realization in the laboratory.
This new effort is an $8M four-year award, renewable for three additional years, funded by the Simons Foundation, and supporting a team of 17 theoretical physics faculty at Caltech and 11 other institutions: Harvard, the Institute for Advanced Study, MIT, Stanford, University of California Santa Barbara, University of California San Diego, the University of Chicago, University of Colorado Boulder, the University of Innsbruck, University of Maryland, and University of Washington. The collaboration, directed by Professor Ashvin Vishwanath at Harvard, is one of twelve supported under the Simons Collaborations in Mathematics and Physical Sciences program, which aims to “stimulate progress on fundamental scientific questions of major importance in mathematics, theoretical physics and theoretical computer science.”