Theoretical physicists are delving into the possibilities presented by “fractons,” static and motionless quasiparticles that could pave the way for safe data storage. This notion stems from an advanced mathematical development of quantum electrodynamics. Even though these fractons are not found in any known material presently, ongoing investigations aim to develop more precise models, incorporating quantum fluctuations. The goal is to guide experimental physicists in crafting and testing materials possessing these attributes, potentially facilitating a notable technological advancement in the future.
Because of their inherent immobility, fractons are being considered as prospective data storage components. Yet, there is no known material displaying fractons. Researchers have recently delved deeper into studying these quasiparticles, exposing intriguing behavior.
Quasiparticles such as excitations in solids can be symbolically represented; phonons, which significantly depict lattice vibrations amplifying with increasing temperature, are an instance of this.
Similarly, mathematically, quasiparticles that have not been detected in any substance can be represented. These theoretical quasiparticles might possess exclusive characteristics, thereby warranting further exploration. Fractons provide a prime example of this.
Unrivalled Data Storage Potential
Fractons are fractional elements of spin excitations and are prohibited from having kinetic energy. As a result, they remain static and motionless. This characteristic positions fractons as potential candidates for extremely secure data storage, particularly since they can be transported under special conditions, such as being carried by another quasiparticle.
Numerical modeling unveils a fraction-signature with typical pinch points (left) that can theoretically be detected experimentally via neutron scattering. Introducing quantum fluctuations obscures this signature (right), even at T=0 K. Credit: HZB
“Fractons have materialized from an advanced mathematical development of quantum electrodynamics, wherein electric fields are interpreted not as vectors but as tensors – entirely unrelated to actual materials,” clarifies Prof. Dr. Johannes Reuther, a theoretical physicist at the Freie Universität Berlin and at HZB.
Pursuit of Simplicity
To enable the experimental observation of fractons in the future, it’s vital to identify the simplest possible model systems. Thus, initial modeling focused on octahedral crystal structures with corner atoms interacting antiferromagnetically.
This modeling unveiled unique patterns with notable pinch points in the spin correlations, which, in theory, can also be experimentally detected in a real material through neutron experiments.
“However, in prior work, spins were treated as classical vectors, without considering quantum fluctuations,” Reuther points out.
Factoring in Quantum Fluctuations
Consequently, Reuther, in collaboration with Yasir Iqbal from the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai, India, and his Ph.D. student Nils Niggemann, has incorporated quantum fluctuations in the calculation of this octahedral solid-state system for the first time.
These intricate numerical calculations have the potential to represent fractons. “The outcome was unexpected because we observed that quantum fluctuations, instead of enhancing the visibility of fractons, completely blur them, even at absolute zero temperature,” Niggemann explains.
The next endeavor for these theoretical physicists is to design a model in which quantum fluctuations can be controlled. This approach creates a sort of middle ground between classical solid-state physics and previous simulations, allowing the study of the extended quantum electrodynamic theory with its fractons in more depth.
Moving from Theory to Practice
So far, no known material displays fractons. But if the next model provides more detailed hints regarding the necessary crystal structure and magnetic interactions, then experimental physicists may start to create and evaluate such materials.
“I do not anticipate an application of these findings
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Fractons
What are fractons?
Fractons are stationary and motionless quasiparticles, which are considered potential candidates for secure information storage. They are fractions of spin excitations and are not allowed to possess kinetic energy, making them completely immobile.
What is the significance of fractons in data storage?
Due to their inherent immobility, fractons could potentially be used for extremely secure data storage. Since they can be transported under special conditions, like being carried by another quasiparticle, they could provide a new way to store and protect information in future technologies.
Are there any known materials that exhibit fractons?
As of the date of the research mentioned in the text, there are no known materials that exhibit fractons. However, ongoing research aims to develop more accurate models that could guide experimental physicists in creating and measuring such materials in the future.
Fractons have emerged from an advanced mathematical development of quantum electrodynamics. In this context, electric fields are treated not as vectors but as tensors, completely detached from real materials.
What is the next step in the research on fractons?
The next step for the theoretical physicists involved in the research is to develop a model in which quantum fluctuations can be controlled. This would enable a more detailed study of the extended quantum electrodynamic theory with its fractons and could potentially guide experimental physicists in creating materials that exhibit these quasiparticles.
More about Fractons
- Understanding Fractons
- Introduction to Quantum Electrodynamics
- About Quasiparticles
- Theoretical Physics Research