PerspectiveQuantum Materials

The expanding materials multiverse

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Science  08 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6393, pp. 1073-1074
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat7282

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Summary

High-energy physicists are limited to studying a single vacuum and its excitations, the particles of the standard model. For condensed-matter physicists, every new phase of matter brings a new “‘vacuum.” Remarkably, the low-energy excitations of these new vacua can be very different from the individual electrons, protons, and neutrons that constitute the material. The materials multiverse contains universes where the particle-like excitations carry only a fraction of the elementary electronic charge (1), are magnetic monopoles (2), or are their own antiparticles (3). None of these properties have ever been observed in the particles found in free space. Often, emergent gauge fields accompany these “fractionalized” particles (2, 4, 5), just as electromagnetic gauge fields accompany charged particles. On page 1101 of this issue, Hassan et al. (6) provide a glimpse of the emergent behaviors of a putative new phase of matter, the dipole liquid. What particles live in this universe, and what new physics is found in this and neighboring parts of the multiverse?