Newly discovered magnetism is a big boost for quantum computers

Quantum spin liquids are real, and might be the future of technology.

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Welcomia via Getty Images
Welcomia via Getty Images

Until now, humanity has only known two forms of magnetism: ferromagnetism (the kind you see on your fridge) and antiferromagnetism (a sort of negative magnetism found in hard drives). However, MIT researchers just confirmed the existence of a third kind... and it could be the key to making quantum computing a practical reality. The team made and supercooled a crystal that exhibits a quantum spin liquid state, where the magnetic directions of each particle never line up. That odd behavior, in turn, leads to quantum entanglement (in which distant particles affect each other's magnetism) that would be ideal for computers.

If scientists learn how to consistently produce and control that entanglement in the future, they could create reliable quantum computers -- you could flip qubits (quantum bits) without worrying that nearby materials will throw it off. That's no mean feat when MIT was using a decidedly rare mineral just to get things going. However, this could be a crucial starting point for technology that will be useful years down the road.

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