Quantum material research connecting physicists in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai facilitates discovery of better

Figure 1. Spin texture and vortex in quantum magnet TMGO when the material is inside the topological KT phase.

Figure 1. Spin texture and vortex in quantum magnet TMGO when the material is inside the topological KT phase.

A joint research team from the University of Hong Kong (HKU), Institute of Physics at Chinese Academy of Science, Songshan Lake Materials Laboratory, Beihang University in Beijing and Fudan University in Shanghai, has provided a successful example of modern era quantum material research. By means of the state-of-art quantum many-body simulations, performed on the world’s fastest supercomputers (Tianhe-I and Tianhe-III protype at National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin and Tianhe-II at National Supercomputer Center in Guangzhou), they achieved accurate model calculations for a rare-earth magnet TmMgGaO4 (TMGO). They found that the material, under the correct temperature regime, could realise the the long-sought-after two-dimensional topological Kosterlitz-Thouless (KT) phase, which completed the pursuit of identifying the KT physics in quantum magnetic materials for half a century. The research work has been published in Nature Communications.

Quantum materials are becoming the cornerstone of the continuous prosperity of human society. From the next-generation AI computing chips that go beyond Moore’s law (the law is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles about every two years, our PCs and smartphones are all based on the success of it. Nevertheless, as the size of the transistors are becoming smaller to the scale of nanometer, the behaviour of electrons are subject to quantum mechanics, Moore’s law is expected to breakdown very soon), to the high speed Maglev train and the topological unit for quantum computers, investigations along these directions all belong to the arena of quantum material research.

However, such research is by no means easy. The difficulty lies in the fact that scientists have to solve the millions of thousands of the electrons in the material in a quantum mechanical way (hence quantum materials are also called quantum many-body systems), this is far beyond the time of paper and pencil, and requires instead modern quantum many-body computational techniques and advanced analysis. Thanks to the fast development of the supercomputing platforms all over the world, scientists and engineers are now making great use of these computation facilities and advanced mathematical tools to discover better materials to benefit our society.

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