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As scientists have explored the structure and properties of matter at ever deeper levels they've discovered many exotic new materials, including superconductors that carry electric current with no resistance, liquid crystals that align to produce brilliant dynamic displays, and materials exhibiting various forms of magnetism. Yet some exotic forms of matter exist only in theory, predicted by scientists based on what they've learned at these deeper levels. Now a pair of physicists provides a theoretical roadmap that could point to the discovery of one such exotic magnetically ordered state, dubbed a "chiral spin liquid."

"This form of matter was first suggested about 30 years ago as a particular kind of magnetic order without a definite global direction of magnetic moments," said Alexei Tsvelik, a theorist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory. "But its discovery has remained a pipe dream, until now."

In a new paper accepted as an Editors' Suggestion by the journal Physical Review Letters, Tsvelik and co-author Oleg Yevtushenko of Ludwig Maximilian University in Germany describe the general requirements that such a magnetic system should satisfy. They also give particular suggestions on where and how to search for real examples of chiral spin liquids.

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