The project group said that quantum spin liquid (QSL) is the third kind of known magnetism, in addition to ferromagnetism, as well as antiferromagnetism in which the magnetic fields cancel each other out. According to the researchers, QSL is a solid herbertsmithite crystal, but its magnetic state is liquid.
"Unlike the other two kinds of magnetism, the magnetic orientations of the individual particles within it fluctuate constantly, resembling the constant motion of molecules within a true liquid," the announcement reads.
While there is no static magnetic orientation order, MIT professor Young Lee said that "there is a strong interaction between them, and due to quantum effects, they don't lock in place." It is believed that Lee and his team are first to demonstrate a model that so far only existed in theory.
At this time, the researcher said that the discovery is "very fundamental research" that could take a very long time to make its way into "practical applications". However, the research could possibly advance data storage technologies, high-temperature superconductors, as well as quantum computing.
"We have to get a more comprehensive understanding of the big picture," Lee says. "There is no theory that describes everything that we're seeing."