Using a D-Wave quantum-annealing computer as a testbed, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have shown that it is possible to isolate so-called emergent magnetic monopoles, a class of quasiparticles, creating a new approach to developing "materials by design."
"We wanted to study emergent magnetic monopoles by exploiting the collective dynamics of qubits," said Cristiano Nisoli, a lead Los Alamos author of the study. "Magnetic monopoles, as elementary particles with only one magnetic pole, have been hypothesized by many, and famously by Dirac, but have proved elusive so far."
They realized an artificial spin ice by using the superconducting qubits of the quantum machine as a magnetic building block. Generating magnetic materials with exotic properties in this way is ground-breaking in many ways. Their process used Gauss's law to trap monopoles, allowing the scientists to observe their quantum-activated dynamics and their mutual interaction. This work demonstrates unambiguously that magnetic monopoles not only can emerge from an underlying spin structure, but can be controlled, isolated and studied precisely.
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