The existence of QSLs has been theorized since 1987, but until now no one has succeeded in actually finding one. In MIT’s case, the researchers spent 10 months growing a tiny sliver of herbertsmithite (pictured above) — a material that was suspected to be a QSL, but which had never been properly investigated. (Bonus points if you can guess who herbertsmithite is named after.) Using neutron scattering [...] the researchers found that the herbertsmithite was indeed a QSL.
Moving forward, Lee says that the discovery of QSLs could lead to advances in data storage [...,] and communications (long-range entanglement). [Young] Lee also seems to think that QSLs could lead us towards higher-temperature superconductors — i.e. materials that superconduct under relatively normal conditions, rather than -200C.
Really, though, the most exciting thing about quantum spin liquids is that they’re completely new, and thus we ultimately have no idea how they might eventually affect our world.
Lately it seems like there's cool new quantum science coming out roughly every week. More likely, I just notice it more now that the Higgs is found and the spell of ambiguity surrounding quantum physics is broken -- as I wrote on Particle Day earlier this year, "I never really believed they were going to find it. I had this weird sense of pessimistic determinism about the whole thing, because up to that point, everything about chemistry and physics that was known, as far as I knew, was known long before I was born."
Now, rather than feeling like science is basically cooked, and we're just pushing up against a wall of inscrutability, I feel like our understanding of the universe is exploding forward every day. It's pretty cool. And I'm grateful.