Newly Discovered State of Matter 3D Quantum Liquid Crystals May Used in Future Quantum Computers

It’s official – we have a new fundamental state of matter to add to our collection and it comes in the form of 3D quantum liquid crystals. The new state of matter was discovered by Caltech physicists at the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter and has a lot of people excited.  Researchers expect this new state of matter to play a big part in ultra-fast quantum computing and could be just the beginning.


With standard liquid crystals, their molecules flow freely as if they were a liquid, but remain directionally oriented like a solid. Quantum liquid crystals’ molecules behave in a similar fashion to standard liquid crystals, but their electrons orient themselves along certain axes instead. When it comes to 3D quantum liquid crystals the magnetic properties they exhibit depends on the direction they flow along a particular axis.


Moving forward, the researchers are hopeful the discovery of 3D quantum liquid crystals may help in developing more efficient computer chips. It could also help us to achieve along that quantum computing journey enabling us to decrypt codes and make calculations much faster than a conventional computer. But quantum effects are delicate and transient and so achieving a quantum computer is no easy feat, but then that’s where the 3D quantum liquid crystals come in.

These images show light patterns generated by a rhenium-based crystal using a laser method called optical second-harmonic rotational anisotropy. At left, the pattern comes from the atomic lattice of the crystal. At right, the crystal has become a 3-D quantum liquid crystal, showing a drastic departure from the pattern due to the atomic lattice alone.
Credit: Hsieh Lab/Caltech

“In the same way that 2D quantum liquid crystals have been proposed to be a precursor to high-temperature superconductors, 3D quantum liquid crystals could be the precursors to the topological superconductors we’ve been looking for,” said Caltech assistant professor of physics, David Heish.


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