Scientists of IBM Zurich and IFT Madrid observe quantum anomalies in solid objects

Institute for Theoretical Physics (IFT)

An international team of physicists, in a joint collaboration including experts from the fields of materials physics and string theory, have observed a phenomenon, which until recently had been thought to have occurred only at distances of many hundreds of thousands of light-years away from Earth, or having been confined only to the initial existence moments of the Universe.

Using a newly discovered material called Weyl-type semi-metal, which is similar to a 3-d version of graphene, scientists from IBM Research have simulated a gravitational field in a test sample imposing on it a temperature gradient. The study was supervised by Prof. Kornelius Nielsch, Director of the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research Dresden (IFW) and Prof. Claudia Felser, Director of the Max-Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids from Dresden. After completing the described experiment and taking measures in a cryolaboratory at the University of Hamburg, a team of theoreticians from TU Dresde, UC Berkeley and the Spanish CSIC confirmed, by means of detailed calculi, that a quantum effect known as axial-gravitational anomaly was taking place.

The famous sentence stating that “energy is not created neither destroyed, it is only transformed”, may be one of the most famous expressions of conservation laws in physics. An example which refers to the conservation of energy, and is directly connected to the First Law of Thermodynamics. In opposition, the phenomenon encountered by IBM and IFT researchers may put this and other conservation laws into question, at least in the conditions of the experiment, and with the materials tested.

With those laws in sudden unexpected jeopardy, we become witnesses of an instant leap of the quantum world into the macroscopic reality. By it, we have to admit that particular, unusual types of matter can display quantum effects, forcing us to drop certain assumptions regarding our understanding of matter. Yet, also importantly, and translating this back into a more applied perspective, the results of this research could lead to a more complete model for the understanding of the primitive universe, also helping in the improvement of energy conversion processes in electronic devices.

More information, and public mentions:

– Nature

– Nature News

– Nota de prensa

 Scientific American

– The New York Times



– Europa Press

– Cuatro

– Informativos Telecinco

– Tendencias 21


– Biqfr – CSIC

– Digital Plural

– Madri+d


– Agencia SINC

– La Voz de Cádiz

– Tecnoxplora

– Investigación y Ciencia


Front photo credit: Dr. Karl Landsteiner, co-author, explaining the finding – Credit: IBM Research. License: Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)